Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Thoughts on Dangerous Dogs & Seizure Warrants in Halifax

I believe in good animal control and good dog by-laws because public safety is important. I don't happen to believe in putting a healthy dog down.

Dogs just don't rate high enough as a threats to human life to merit killing them if they step out of line. Dogs don't even show up on the top 50 causes of accidental death and injury. So to me, killing a healthy dog because it inflicts harm, or is said to be likely to inflict harm, is unacceptably disproportionate. It's also immoral, when you consider that Canada no longer kill humans who kill other humans.

When balanced against the enormous value of the human-canine bond that predates modern society, killing healthy dogs seems very immoral. People have kept dogs for some 30,000 years - longer than there were cities, laws, and the family as we know it - and the human-canine bond is likely to endure longer than those institutions. True, not everybody likes dogs, but dogs serve everybody - in security, in special needs cases, at hospitals, and, lord knows, in research! So it's only right that our laws reflect how important dogs are to us.

As a result, any city insisting it has a right to destroy lawfully owned dogs must insure that those laws are fair and and effective. Above all, they must avoid infringing rights and harming dogs needlessly. And the most important part of dog by-laws is the definition of dangerous at their core. Without a reasonable, science-based definition of "dangerous", no dog laws can be fair or effective. When we look at how Halifax deals with "dangerous", however, things don't look so good.

Under Halifax local law,  deeming a dog dangerous doesn't require Halifax to seize and kill the dog in question, regardless of circumstance. The law doesn't stipulate when Halifax should kill a dog, such as following a serious incident. It leaves all of this up to the animal control officer and the prosecutor. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Halifax you are NOT entitled to adopt Brindi out! She already has a loving home - my home!


So tonight CTV Atlantic ran a top story saying "Brindi the dog gets new owner" [Ed. note: The story was taken down a few days later]. That's news to me!

You might expect me to welcome such news, but I could not be more upset. And for a host of reasons.

Sure, I got an email from the HRM prosecutor Katherine Salsman on Monday, saying HRM will "proceed with the adoption". What adoption, I asked? Just days before, and ever since 2010, this woman has had a one-track mind about killing Brindi.*

Then I warned her that it was not entitled to do this legally - not now and not for a long time, thanks to the lawsuit that HRM itself forced me to file back in 2008 (more on this below).

But I didn't think CTV would just blindly report this story without checking facts. And, they said they tried to contact me for a comment. Yet I didn't get one call, email, or tweet, nothing. 


Did anybody think to ask the responsible parties at city hall why, after SEVEN YEARS of trying to kill her (lawfully or unlawfully), they are suddenly willing to let my beautiful, smart, loving girl live?

Isn't HRM essentially conceding it's been wrong all along??

I think so. So my heart has been broken over and over, I lived through hell for seven years, suffering from trauma after trauma, fear and grief, PTSD, depression, enduring countless losses and hardship, unable to work full time, unable to complete major home renovations, unable to live, essentially - and the same for Brindi, who has been made ill and kept in isolation year after year after year, all for nothing. Of course, for nothing. I already knew this - so did HRM, frankly, because it always knew it had no case for seizing and killing Brindi. 

But no way does
HRM now get to do an about-face and talk about adoption as if it was already a done-deal. Not so fast!!! Not until and unless those responsible are held accountable for all the damage done, in addition to wasting taxpayer money on needless and, let's be honest, malicious prosecution.

SECONDLY... Can we believe HRM and its prosecutor, Ms. Salsman? 

How do we know for sure what HRM will really do with Brindi, let alone what it is doing to her now? Not only has HRM been dishonest in the past about Brindi and other dogs; its "staff" have cloaked themselves in excessive secrecy, the kind that shouts "We have something to hide!"

THIRDLY... It's a bit premature for HRM to announce adoption, because of the following.

What is a puncture wound? How prosecutors use words when hard evidence is lacking.

This photo shows the worst injury  said to result from an incident between Brindi and a dog named Lucy in front of her house one dark night in 2010.

HRM calls it a puncture wound. 

There was also a shallow abrasion about the same on Lucy's opposite shoulder, and a scratch on one ear, which was not photographed.  
No photos of injuries Brindi allegedly caused before 2010 - i.e., before she was seized to be killed in 2008 - are available. This is because there was nothing worth photographing.

What gets me is that nobody in the media and very few others noticed the glaring absence of the customary bloody photos of a "victim dog". Did they not ask why HRM never released any photos to the media? I was too busy trying to keep my head above water to even think of it, and nobody ever asked. Yet this photo is really all HRM had to show when it tried a third time to get a lawful order to kill Brindi. And failed a third time.

These photos show injuries sustained by a dog in a dog attack from 2014.
It penetrated through all layers of skin. And it needed stitches and a drainage tube to keep it from becoming infected

The injured dog's vet care cost its owner over $2,000.  

This is the image the words "puncture wound" conjure up in people's minds.

HRM did not seize the dog that attacked. It did not prosecute its owners with the aim of obtaining a court order to destroy the dog. It did issue a fine and a muzzle order. However, not long afterwards, the dog was reported - and photographed - running at large with no muzzle on.  

A muzzle order violation! The only reason HRM seized Brindi twice.
But for that dog, HRM, or rather Officer Brad Kelly, did nothing about it. That dog is still running loose on a beach near you.

This is the vet bill from the injuries allegedly caused by Brindi.
There is a second bill two weeks later.

Why is HRM doing this to us?

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Who put the "no" in Nova Scotia? My December 2010 Memo to HRM Prosecutor Katherine Salsman

I  met with Ms. Salsman for three hours in early December, 2010 - exactly five years ago -  to offer five possible options for Brindi, in return for me pleading guilty and paying fines on three offences HRM graciously charged me for one incident, even though that incident happened by mistake and led to no "measurable harm" as they say.

By then HRM had been holding Brindi for nearly three months - again. HRM by-law thugs (sorry, but they were) had also evicted me from my home unlawfully, and Dawn Sloane and other members of Council refused to allow me my right of appeal. So my cat Amelia and I were essentially homeless. 

Two friends came with me to that meeting. It was Ms. Salsman who declared that the meeting was not a negotiation because she refused to negotiate. I said fine, I will talk, and you will listen! And since it wasn't a negotiation then there was no obligation for confidentiality. This was clear. 

Ms. Salsman, with an alarming air of authority (not to say belligerence) for someone so recently out of law school, vetoed every single offer. When I asked to talk with her superior, she thoroughly blocked that idea.

My friends and I went home. Or rather, I left, and they went home. I tried not to lose my mind. I wrote up what we each said in a memo and sent it to her about a week later. She wrote back insisting on confidentiality after the fact, even threatened various consequences. Too late.

So this is the memo. 

December 14, 2010

Dear Ms. Salsman:

Here is a summary of your position and points you expressed last Friday in our meeting and in
other conversations and documents since October.

• HRM is seeking guilty verdicts on one or more of three charges solely for the purpose of
obtaining a court order to kill Brindi.

• You rejected my offer to plead guilty on all three charges in exchange for Brindi’s return and
stated that HRM plans to ask for one dollar fines and seek a court order to destroy my dog.

• Under no circumstances will you, as HRM prosecutor,

1. Release Brindi pending trial, even on a bond as high as $10,000, which I offered.
2. Let her go to a foster home pending trial.
3. Drop the HRM request to put Brindi down.
4. Let her go back with me to the States (or anywhere else) permanently.
5. Let her go to another owner, either here or anywhere else.
6. Make or accept any offer for me to get her back and keep her alive.
• HRM will return Brindi only if ordered to [do so] by a court.

With regard to your goal as prosecutor, you stated further that:

• Under the law, you are not required to show any grounds for putting Brindi down,* though
you concede no reasonable court will order destruction of life without sufficiently compelling

Saturday, December 5, 2015

How to Bury a Dog & Her Human Alive, Layer by Layer

Why do people insist on believing that the 2012 ruling I am appealing ordered HRM to adopt Brindi, when HRM itself doesn't see it that way?

How can I possibly ever win an appeal in a case riddled with twisted truths, gross exaggerations, key omissions, sheer lies?  This is not a game I know how to play.

Background: parsing court rulings

Judge Buchan's sentence, June 26 2012, p. 9 *
“But for her complacency for ensuring that Brindi could not act out her territorial aggression on other innocent dogs after having been given more than adequate opportunity to do so, I am satisfied that Brindi cannot safely be returned to Ms. Rogier.”
Okay so I cannot help but take it apart. Humour me please. 

her complacency: not a correct or fair conclusion to draw from strict liability offences where intent is not considered. And both she and HRM acknowledged the window mistake was unintentional I testified that I had otherwise always muzzled/leashed her in the car even though I knew it put her at risk; that night the hot weather dictated not leaving them on in a parking lot; I testified that I believed I had secured the car. None of that is consistent with complacency.

And the term is otherwise completely contradicted by a wealth of evidence, including the uncontested fact that I not only met but exceeded the court conditions by continuing training voluntarily, confirmed by the trainer’s testimony and her special statement for sentencing that set out the training details and her assessment of Brindi; a letter of support for Brindi and her confidence in me from our vet, and two sworn affidavits attesting to my rigorous attention to the conditions and to training. Plus informal letters from local mothers of small children. 

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Why won't you step up, Hope Swinimer? Open Letter to Halifax Pound Contractor

As a famous John once famously said to a famous Paul, "How do you sleep?"

You made your name saving wild animals with Hope for Wildlife. You founded Homeward Bound Citypound as the pound contractor for the Halifax Regional Municipality since 2010, taking over from the SPCA. Your goal, you told me, was to gain addition income for the wildlife rehab centre - to pay two staff members, if I remember correctly.

So essentially you are using this business, the pound, to support your wild-life rehab. 
And in its day-to-day business, the pound carries out various functions, including executing orders for and by the Halifax Regional Municipality. [It is part of the municipal system of by-law enforcement. The same system that took my dog away from me twice, under questionable circumstances, and had you hold her indefinitely since 2010 [though as seized property, the law compels it to be returned if, like Brindi, it is not evidence].

My question to you is simple: when are you going to finally stand up for Brindi? She's an animal too, just like the wild ones you love to rescue.

Doesn't my dog have the same right to a good life as a wild animal? How is keeping her kenneled year after year a good life? Why did you allow your subcontractor to swear to a judge she is okay when you know very well she isn't? She's got at least two chronic diseases!

We both know you have been profiting from your business, and it's no exaggeration to say it was my fight for Brindi that opened up this opportunity for you in 2010. So haven't you been essentially profiting from our misery for five years now? Five years!! And for those five years she and I suffered while you collected a healthy sum - something like $2.5 million for the first three years? How much more now, since the new contract last March? I don't know. I don't want to know.

What I do know is, I did some good volunteer work for you at Hope for Wildlife for over a year. The peace pole standing on your property right now was my project, done at your special request, from start to finish. From finding the right artist, commissioning it, selecting the design, the languages, and organizing its fabrication and delivery, to choosing its location on your land. Then, though I did not feel up to it because the city had taken Brindi from me just weeks before, and I could hardly bear being in public, I designed and organized the unveiling ceremony too, for you! I'd lost about 15 pounds by then, was unable to eat because of Brindi. Everybody noticed.

I want my dog back!
My work at your open house for the kids, again at your request, where I came up with a fun way to make bird beaks with real feathers, teaching about shapes of beaks, was a big hit. I did it because I love animals, I did it because I believed in you. 

I cannot tell you how saddening it is to me, to be repaid this way. To know that I also sought your help, in trust, and instead you saw it as an opportunity to advance your own interests and simply took it.

You know how much Brindi means to me. How can you live with yourself, truly?

Why won't Halifax tell me how Brindi is, or take her to her vet?

I can no longer shut my ears from the question people keep asking me: What makes you think Brindi is still alive? 

They seem to be asking this more than ever. And I am worried more than ever. I ask HRM often, and they refuse to give me any information. They used to just ignore the question. But more recently they  say they are "satisfied" that they don't have to give me any info on Brind because she is not relevant to the appeal. Not relevant? She is the whole reason for the appeal. I am not satisfied.

How can I write a brief without knowing how she is, or if she is? I cannot, I am finding. I haven't got anything to go on for three years. What I do know is she is not healthy per se because of her chronic conditions. And I know she is not getting the supplement that stabilizes her blood enzymes. And there is no reason on earth HRM is not able to tell me or to take her to Dr. Larkin for a checkup. Dr. Larkin has written several times as well, no answer. So it is maddeningly worrying. It's totally debilitating in fact. Paralyzing.

I am going to have to do something soon about it, somehow, because for weeks and weeks I've been having migraines, flare-ups of muscle pain, insomnia. By now I cannot focus or concentrate at all, I sleep randomly, I can't manage the house or bills or anything. It's too much. And the work for court is incredibly complicated, the papers riddled with reminders that trigger PTSD like nobody's business. I stare in lockdown-mode for hours. Then suddenly a memory stabs my brain and I'm sobbing for fifteen minutes.

Nobody should have to live like this. My house is a mess. I can't work. I have no holiday plans, the seventh year in a row. I can't fly to the US to see my 94 year-old mother. I have nothing to look forward to - nothing but more difficulty and hardship, and possibly much more grief, because this is my last chance.