Friday, June 29, 2012

My statement to the Court regarding sentencing


The Honourable Judge Flora I. Buchan
Dartmouth Provincial Court
277 Pleasant St
Dartmouth, NS B2Y 3S2

Your Honour:

June 22, 2012

RE: R. v. Rogier

Sentencing Submissions

1.     Please accept this letter as my submissions with respect to sentence in the above trial.


2.     In response to a finding of guilt on the charges, the Crown is seeking an order to have my dog, “Brindi”, destroyed, and fines imposed on me.


3.    HRM has seized Brindi twice, citing the same claim that she must be destroyed. The original euthanasia order was quashed along with the law used to issue it.

4.     Four times since HRM first seized Brindi in July 2008 under the claim that she must be destroyed, at my request she has been assessed by qualified persons with experience evaluating dogs. In all instances, the results have been quite positive. The most recent assessment carried out one week ago resulted in a finding that she is fit to live in a family home. The extended period of detainment has brought about the need for a period of re-adjustment to relearn housetraining and recover other abilities that any dog would need under the circumstances.

5.     The Crown has submitted the full Decision by Justice Beveridge of the Supreme Court which found that after the first seizure, HRM was procedurally unfair and denied me due process.

Letter submitted to the Court by Brindi's veterinarian

Since October 2010, Dr. Larkin has been regularly monitoring Brindi's health at my request, as her health was already compromised from two-years of being held in isolation. For unstated reasons, HRM would not permit the vet to see Brindi at the kennel, however, so she was brought to the Complete Care Clinic. Dr. Larkin speaks about her expertise and her opinion of Brindi's behavior. Posted with permission. 

June 21, 2012

The Honourable Judge Flora I. Buchan
Dartmouth Provincial Court
277 Pleasant Street
Dartmouth, NS B2Y 3S2

Your Honour,

Re: R. v.  Rogier Sentencing Submissions

Please accept and consider this letter which is presented with respect to the trial of Francesca Rogier, owner of Brindi.
With full respect to your Honour, I am aware that Courts in Canada customarily give consideration to veterinary opinion in cases where the destruction of a family pet is contemplated.  In some cases, they seek out such professional input. I would hope that such consideration is given here.
Professional qualification:
It is my sincere hope that my statement will not be disregarded or dismissed based on what would be, in my view, a misunderstanding of the notion of “expert”. As a veterinarian, I spent 8 years in university training to become a doctor.
My training at the Atlantic Veterinary College at the University of Prince Edward Island qualifies me to diagnose conditions and prescribe medical treatments in the areas of dermatology, ophthalmology, cardiology, gastroenterology, neurology, oncology , immunology, orthopedics, as well as performing surgery, dentistry, radiology, and last but not least, behavior modification training. Veterinarians essentially are trained to provide complete medical care for our animal patients including behavioural advice. It is rare that we have the need to consult a specialist. My 18 years of clinical experience further demonstrates my knowledge and skills as a veterinarian.
In addition, as a veterinarian entrusted by both Ms. Rogier and Halifax Regional Municipality to monitor Brindi’s health since early 2010, I am able to provide reliable information about her status and her behavior.  In its capacity as a representative of the public, and having been in regular dialogue with Animal Services staff, I would hope that the Municipality will have no question as to the authenticity of my statement, as I am aware that it is customary for the legal profession to recognize the validity of a veterinarian’s statements on behalf of their patient.
With respect to Brindi, please allow me to place her in context with the greater dog population in HRM from my point of view as a practicing veterinarian. In my practice, and in others across the province where I have worked, it is common (a few times a month) to have an appointment with a patient who is aggressive towards other dogs who must be scheduled for the first or last appointment of the day to prevent them from running into another dog and risking a fight.  It is also common to be confronted with a dog that is aggressive towards people that proves to be a serious health risk to me and my staff.  I am well trained and experienced in handling these situations. Beyond this, I have worked with several pet owners to help them modify their pet’s aggressive behaviour.
In my 2 years of caring for Brindi, I have never felt concerned for the personal safety of me or my staff. When Francesca brought her to my clinic in the summer of 2010, we never found it necessary to clear the waiting room before her entry.  She is a sweet, intelligent dog. Although she does need behavior modification for her territorialism, speaking as a veterinarian with a grounding in behavioural science, I would not deem Brindi to be a candidate for euthanasia. I have seen many dogs in my practice that in my view would pose a serious risk to public safety. I am not aware that HRM considers any of these patients a “dangerous dog” or that their owners have received any warnings or citations.
Francesca Rogier has been a good client of mine since November 2009. Whenever she brought Brindi to my clinic, Brindi was properly muzzled and leashed. Ms. Rogier has kept all of her pets in good health by feeding good food and allowing me to perform good preventative health care. She has kept her dog’s license up to date, as she renewed it in my office this past spring. She even brought in her friend’s 2 dogs to my hospital and paid for their veterinary care and licensing herself.
Ms. Rogier’s persistence in defending Brindi clearly shows her devotion and care that she delivers to her pets. I truly believe Ms. Rogier has the intent and ability to provide Brindi with the behavior training she needs to modify her territorialism. In addition, I have met and spoken with Susan Jordan, her trainer, and am aware she is well-regarded in the community of trainers and is equipped to handle behavioural modification. I am confident in her abilities.
I hope you find this statement instructive. If you have any questions for me please feel free to contact me (number removed).


Kyra Larkin BSc, DVM

Dr. Larkin first examined Brindi in June 2010 at Belle Kennel, using her mobile vet clinic. I am extremely indebted and grateful to her for her dedication and commitment.
For the trainer's findings, go here

Affidavit Submitted to Provincial Court for Sentencing

Affidavit of Elizabeth Lindsay

I hereby affirm and give evidence as follows:

1.     I am Elizabeth Lindsay, a friend of Francesca Rogier, the Defendant in this matter.

2.     I reside at address withheld , Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.

3.     I have personal knowledge of the evidence sworn in this affidavit except where explicitly stated as based on information and belief. I state my belief of the source of any information I state herein that is not based on my own personal knowledge.

4.     I have been a pet owner in HRM for 30 years and am active in the volunteer and rescue community.

5.     In mid-June 2010, on or around June 10, I observed two of Francesca’s training sessions with Brindi at Belle Kennel in Porter’s Lake, which was conducted according to Court order. These sessions lasted for about an hour.

6.     During these sessions with Brindi, who I had not seen prior to these sessions, the dog impressed me as a friendly, good-natured animal weighing about 60 pounds. She responded to commands obediently and intelligently.

7.     Throughout the sessions, which took place in the pen designated for them, I was able to observe that Francesca was diligent and sincerely focused on completing the training as prescribed by court-approved trainer Susan Jordan.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

I want every person and every "sanctuary" to know....

that Brindi is not material for a sanctuary or rescue... she is a dog that has excellent obedient training, is smart, affectionate, gentle, and good. This has all been well documented and analyzed by trainers and vets and presented to the court in testimony and prepared reports.
All of the assessments found the same things, including the most recent assessment carried out on June 13 specifically for the purpose of this trial. Brindi is not "dog-aggressive". She is not food aggressive. She is territorial - to some dogs, not every dog. She ranks on the very lowest level of the scale of aggression, meaning Brindi seeks to communicate, not harm.
Typically, she reacts to a combination of the dog and the person with the dog.
Brindi needs work on one issue and one issue only.
That issue is very controllable now, and can be trained out of her.

She is not a dog that should be locked away for the rest of her life. So please do not imagine even for one second that this is an acceptable solution!

Brindi deserves a good home and all the love in the world!


Released to local media June 26, 2012  

By returning total and absolute control of Brindi’s fate to HRM, today’s court decision firmly establishes that HRM is not answerable to any authority.

How is HRM to feign a sincere decision between adopting Brindi out, or putting her down? Ever since HRM seized Brindi after an incident in which no one was harmed, HRM has insisted she must die. Yet it has not conducted a single behavioral evaluation on her, and showed no interest in the results of the ones I commissioned. In fact, HRM blocked and/or attempted to sabotage them. But it failed.

HRM’s record of denying due process and procedural fairness was made clear in the Supreme Court decision of 2009. Yet no individual was ever held accountable, nor did HRM change its ways by amending even a single law or policy. It simply dug in its heels, refused to return Brindi, and retaliated by laying charges against me for an event that took place six months earlier. The pattern continued unabated.

HRM failed again in Court some 16 months later. Then it declined to cooperate with an order to allow Brindi to be trained at the kennel. After they blocked it for a month, I had to appeal to the media before HRM would comply.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Legal Opinion on the Issues

Saturday, June 23, 2012

"Good Bite Inhibition": If only some humans had it!

The more facts people get about this case, and the situation in Halifax, the more they will come to realize that what is happening to Brindi and me is not about a "dangerous dog" or an "irresponsible owner" or about protecting the public. Not at all. It is about bad legislation and arbitrary law enforcement. And, in the place of accountability for both, a coordinated attack to silence unlucky victims - not unlike the way the NSA treats whistleblowers.

It's a mistake for laws to apply a human yardstick to dogs. The latest consensus in canine science is that a dog that kills at the first opportunity is a far greater danger than a dog that has many opportunities but refrains from inflicting severe injuries. It's called "bite inhibition". As Dr. Ian Dunbar puts it, A dog that gets into lots of scuffles, and the other dog comes away without a mark or a wound, has good bite inhibition. That's Brindi.

There is only one photo of an injury from a scuffle with Brindi, and it isn't remotely like the photo of this poor dog. She has excellent bite inhibition, according to her trainer Susan Jordan. Her behavior is about sending a message in the way dogs communicate to other dogs. It's not about attacking to maim or kill.

Brindi waited two years in a no-kill shelter for my adoption. She knows how to cope in a kennel, but she is not her full self there, and knowing she's got a real home and a human who loves her has to make her depressed. I often hear from kind supporters - who have since become friends - who care so much, they shed tears nightly over Brindi. It's terrible, and though I am deeply touched and humbled by it, I so wish they didn't - I feel like I am suffering enough for everybody.

The trial began in March with shock and disappointment, so then the verdicts on May 10 were not all that surprising, although the month delay in between was unexpected and personally devastating.
See the court docs here.
Right now, the sentencing scheme is underway. It's very unorthodox, to say the least: there will be no public sentencing hearing in court. Instead, per the judge's scheduling arrangement, the city had three weeks to file its "submissions" (also with court docs) to request killing Brindi. That left me two weeks to prepare my submission for the June 22 deadline. The judge will announce her decision June 26.

June 22 is a Friday. That means the judge gave herself just one day to read my submissions. One day. After nearly two years of waiting for a trial with my dog locked up in isolation, my dog, who never should have been seized, and was seized twice instead.

The materials submitted by the city include reports of incidents dating as far back as 2007 - minor incidents involving little or no injury, which were not charged. They make no mention of the subsequent hours of training we did. And as before, no behavioral assessment by a professional to back up their claim that Brindi is a public threat. The city is relying on a very twisted argument that blames me for being irresponsible and then concludes from that that Brindi is dangerous and must be put down.

The latest development:
The prosecutor spoke on radio for the first time last week on News 95.7 on the Rick Howe show. Rick, for reasons known only to him, chose not to offer me the chance to defend myself, let alone correct four key things she said that were untrue. After I contacted him to ask what the deal was, he gave me about 5 minutes on air today. Unfortunately he interrupted them with an comment from a caller (unannounced) who ignored everything that had just been said in order to trash me.

More important, the city is currently blocking me from getting an updated assessment of Brindi done by a trainer in time for my June 22 deadline. Normally a trainer would see a dog in its living environment; what else? But HRM is claiming the proprietors (contracted by the city) aren't comfortable with having the assessment there. It insists on wrenching Brindi out of the kennel and trucking her back to the pound, muzzled, in a locked box in a dogcatcher's truck and giving the trainer a small room indoors. That's the same place it kept her for two months in 2010, with an outdoor area consisting of two parking spaces, screened off. Brindi would doubtless freak out going back there, because she'll assume she's being taken there to stay. Great way to set up an assessment.

Clearly, the city has very little idea about behavioral assessments, or Brindi. Secrecy - paranoia, I'd say - is more important than fairness or a living being's right to life. Some say they do things to make her fierce, but frankly, nothing HRM has orchestrated to date served to change Brindi's temperament. But they have certainly hurt her emotional state and isolated her from a lot of love and companionship that she deserves - as well as constant care for her now chronic illnesses brought on by years of confinement and neglect (insufficient exercise, bad food, fatty treats) at the pound.

That's how it is.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Public safety or politics? How Halifax deals with dogs that actually cause severe harm

Titan, a pit bull, and a chow mix in the neighbourhood have fought each other several times.
Was Halifax merely practicing strict animal control when it planned to seize Brindi, laying the ground by issuing her a muzzle order? 
You decide. Here is a sample of its approach to dogs that actually cause serious harm, from last April. 

Dog fights frustrate Lower Sackville residents

Residents of a Lower Sackville trailer park say they've had enough with a pair of dogs that continue to fight each other.

Tracey Crawley, a resident of the Sackville Manor trailer park, said her pet was attacked two months ago by one of the two dogs.

"My daughter was home with my dog and she called me on the phone to tell my the chow dog had been in the yard and attacked my dog," she said Monday. "My next door neighbour, what she did was she called the SPCA and we never heard anything else in regards to it."

At around 4 p.m. on Monday, there was another fight between the two dogs in question — a chow mix and a pit bull. The owner of the chow mix was bitten in the arm as she tried to break up the fight between the animals. Tanya Ross, the owner of the pit bull, said she wants the other dog to leave the neighbourhood.
"Her dog bit my daughter, attacked my dog four or five times on my property, has attacked numerous people in the neighbourhood, I think the dog should be taken right out of the neighbourhood," she told CBC News.

Animal services officers with the Halifax Regional Municipality spoke to Ross and the owner of the chow mix, but neither of the animals was seized.
-- Chronicle Herald, Halifax

So... not so strict after all. Even when people are bitten - or animals are killed: I personally witnessed a case of a dog that strayed far from its yard and killed a kitten belonging to a neighbor. The ten-year old dog had never been licensed either. Irresponsible owner? No. The city didn't seize that dog, or bring that neighbor to court; it didn't ask for the dog to be put down, or even muzzled. On hearing the prosecutor say "It was just a first offense, your honor," the judge granted his request for two fines, a long period to pay, and a long period for the owner - whose husband appeared in court in her place - to obtain a dog license.

Meanwhile, known violent psychos get "day passes" to roam the streets unescorted. Recently this sort of thing led to a man's murder.

Brindi's been locked up longer than many violent criminals.

Halifax seized her and kept her for six months without cause (or due process). I tried in vain to convince them it was a mistake, begged them to let her go, offered to pay fines if they would only charge me; build a fence; do private training, and obey the muzzle order (violated unintentionally for about 20 secs one fateful morning). But the city refused, and kept hold of her even after I had to go to court and a judge tossed out their unconstitutional "euthanasia" order. At that point it simply laid charges and kept her longer, even though the charge didn't entitle them to do that. Also the vet, and any number of members of the public. 
At the beginning Halifax lawyers admitted Brindi was not a danger to people. Which raises the question, why try to put her down? She's never bitten a person, not even close, and no dog ever needed medical treatment because of her. Last week, inexplicably reversing the previous position, the new prosecutor told a local radio host that Brindi's a threat to public safety And all the time, it keeps her isolated from other dogs, and from me, as her health declines. I don't know what their connection is, but the prosecutor spoke on the same show as a woman belonging to a small group of people who have been harassing me for years - people with connections to a branch of the SPCA that, as the poundkeeper, ducked loudly the first time around. The woman hasn't been directly involved in my case, yet keeps putting out false information.
I have blogged the details leading almost up to her release in 2010. It's been very difficult to continue after that, especially with the things I was hit after the city took her again. That was after a minor and rather freak incident. Again, it wouldn't let her go pending trial, though it leaves countless other dogs  at home while it pursues similar charges after similar incidents. It ignores the training that was done and what the trainer says about Brindi.