Hillview couple found guilty of animal abuse

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Max, a shepherd cross, is pictured in this file photo after the Clarenville area SPCA and the RCMP took the dog from its home in an emaciated condition last March. The dog died soon after.

A Hillview couple was found guilty today in provincial court in Clarenville of cruelty to animal charges.

Harvey Murlin Price, 42, and Jacqueline Cooper, 38, have both been found guilty on charges under the Canadian Criminal Code for Cruelty to Animals, under sections 446 and 445 A1.

A sentencing hearing has been set for Jan. 18.

The charges were laid following a March 2 incident in which RCMP officers and the Clarenville area SPCA removed a dog from the couple’s Hillview home.

The dog, a mixed-breed shepherd named Max, was emaciated and was placed into the care of the SPCA, but died a few days later.

Police said at the time that when they removed the dog from its home he was in bad shape. The doghouse was rickety and didn't provide adequate shelter, and the dog had no food and had only a bucket of frozen water. He was also tied to a tree with a heavy chain that was digging into its skin.

As an adult he should have weighed about 90-lbs, but only weighed 53-lbs when he was recovered.

According to a news release from the SPCA, in court today, the judge restated the facts in the case, highlighting the evidence presented during the trial.

The judge noted Max was a shepherd dog which had lived to the age of 18 years. In the last few weeks of his life, his quality of life deteriorated. Both Price and Cooper knew Max was getting old, was deteriorating and going downhill.

Price admitted in his own testimony that he called a veterinarian four weeks prior to the removal of Max to determine the cost of having the dog euthanized. Price was told the cost, but took no action.

The judge felt there was a “reckless inaction” and both accused were “willingful blind to his condition.”

Organizations: RCMP

Geographic location: Hillview, Clarenville

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  • Reason
    December 27, 2012 - 13:49

    At the age of 18, the human equivalent for Max is 120 years of age. Any 120 yr old person will be emaciated in appearance and need assistance with walking. Old age is not pretty, theren is muscle wastage and weight loss. Max’s weight and loss of muscle is NOT an indication the owners neglected this dog. It was reported that the veterinarian felt Max’s body condition was a result of “lack of calories” but she is probably a young vet who has not taken into consideration the aging process. It’s understandable as she has probably never seen a large 18 year old dog before, few have as they are so rare. I am appalled at the vigilantism I am seeing in the online comments and have to wonder if the outcry influenced the judgement . Unfortunately this couple has been found guilty. It should not be a crime to own an old dog that looks like an old dog. Either the law is wrong or has been misinterpreted. Max was put under tremendous stress being taken from the environment he knew all of his life. The SPCA Volunteer meant well but the situation was mishandled. The owners should have been counselled to seek veterinary attention and given time to do so. Those of us with emaciated looking old dogs will be in fear now. We used to be proud that we managed to get our dogs to advanced age, but now we are skirting the possibility of being charged with cruelty simply for owning an old dog that looks like an old dog! This couple needs to appeal their conviction. They should not be convicted for having an old dog that looked like an old dog. Convict them for chaining him outdoors for too long if they did that but not because of his weight and loss of muscle, both of which is a result of extreme age. There was misinformation put out that stirred up an emotional outcry. Max did not pass away because of his body condition, he was PUT DOWN. He could walk with assistance, it is called towel walking. Max still had his front support, it was his rear that had weakened. He was not ready to die, with nursing care he could have lasted longer but it would have been a lot of work. He was not starved to death. The judge acknowledged that he felt Max was cared for his entire life until the last few weeks when he felt they were “willingful blind to Max’s condition” and engaged in “reckless inaction” The judge is wrong. It is difficult for owners to come to terms with the decline in their dogs due to age. Max was not gasping his last breath when removed nor was he suffering from any illness other than old age. He was not in distress from pain. It may have been unwise to put him outdoors on a chain ( if it was an extended time) given his age and condition, but to convict the owners based on his body condition is a miscarriage of justice. The defence needed an experienced vet on the team. I hope this conviction is appealed for the sake of all of us who are so fortunate to have extremely old dogs.

  • BHT
    December 15, 2012 - 17:25

    Write to the judge and request that they receive the maximum sentence: The Honourable Patrick J.B. Kennedy 47 Marine Drive Clarenville, NL A5A IM5

  • Natasha
    December 13, 2012 - 14:10

    “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” – Mohandas K. Gandhi

  • Leah
    December 11, 2012 - 22:39

    Volunteer, I now understand what you clearly mean. I am sorry for the sarcastic last sentence. I am so upset about precious innocent helpless Max that I jumped to the incorrect conclusion without reading your first comment a couple of times.

  • toddlermom
    December 11, 2012 - 17:33

    I hope the community in Newfoundland shuns these ignorant, heartless maggots! How can any human with a heart think it was appropriate and humane to banish an ailing senior dog, chain him so he could not help himself and refuse to feed or care for him. They sentenced this senior dog to end his life alone and suffering. A dog who loved them all his life. So, very, very sad and cruel!

  • Volunteer
    December 11, 2012 - 14:28

    Leah, I just wanted to explain that the court did not say he was abused but rather they failed to provide the necessary care he needed. NEGLECT in it's worst form in my eyes. The person who said they will probably appeal because he wasn't physically abused needed to see the actual Criminal Code statues they were charged under. ABUSE comes in many forms and in this case it wasn't physical abuse but just as bad, actually worse in my opinion!!!. I am not arguing that what they did was not abuse Max in my eyes because no matter what terminology we use, they deserve the book thrown at them. I think it is cruelty in the worst form actually!!!!

  • Volunteer
    December 11, 2012 - 14:06

    Leah, I just wanted to explain that the court did not say he was abused but rather they failed to provide the necessary care he needed. NEGLECT in it's worst form in my eyes. The person who said they will probably appeal because he wasn't physically abused needed to see the actual Criminal Code statues they were charged under. ABUSE comes in many forms and in this case it wasn't physical abuse but just as bad, actually worse in my opinion!!!. I am not arguing that what they did was not abuse Max in my eyes because no matter what terminology we use, they deserve the book thrown at them. I think it is cruelty in the worst form actually!!!!

  • Leah
    December 11, 2012 - 12:50

    Volunteer, No, Max was not "physically" abused by being beaten, but what was done to him is much worse. If these two so-called owners had fed him on a regular basis and checked to see if his water was frozen a couple of times a day, they would have noticed that Max was walking on his knuckles, if at all, the chain was digging into his skin, he was cold and lonely, and he was obviously losing weight Now, if that's not cruelty, what is? I sure hope you don't volunteer at the SPCA.

  • Wanda
    December 11, 2012 - 12:22

    Do the same thing to these two as was done to poor ole Max. What a sin. Let them experience for a few days the horror of being left helplessly abandoned alone in the freezing cold of winter. My gosh, Max's chain was tied to a tree and was digging into his fur and skin. He had to be there a long time. And if that wasn't bad enough, they even starved him!!!! You two cannot have a heart.

  • Volunteer
    December 11, 2012 - 11:36

    No one said these people physically abused Max These people were convicted under these sections in the Canadian Criminal and that was proven beyond a doubt. They didn't notice the sores on him, that he was walking on his knuckles and more Max could only stand on his own for a short time.. 445.1 (a) wilfully causes or, being the owner, wilfully permits to be caused unnecessary pain, suffering or injury to an animal or a bird; 446. ((b) being the owner or the person having the custody or control of a domestic animal or a bird or an animal or a bird wild by nature that is in captivity, abandons it in distress or wilfully neglects or fails to provide suitable and adequate food, water, shelter and care for it .

  • Judy
    December 11, 2012 - 07:25

    My heart is aching ever since I saw Max on the News last evening. The pictures speak for themselves; no words needed. If he was outside only long enough "to do his business", why was a heavy chain digging into his neck, as well as his water frozen? This was in cold months of Winter. He was 18 for heaven's sake. Anyone with a grain of compassion and common sense would take him out on a leash and then bring him straight back inside. He was sooooo deteriorated that he could not even be saved by the SPCA. Ohhhh Max; you precious innocent darling dog.

  • Jack
    December 11, 2012 - 06:57

    I think that in this case, the Judge was not thinking logically in finding Harvey Price and Jacqueline Cooper guilty and here are two reasons why. The first reason is that when dogs like humans reach old age, in this case 18 human years old (128 dog years old), they are going to get sick, and the judge didn't take its age into consideration. Secondly, Mr. Price and Ms. Cooper didn't physically abuse the dog, which is why the animal cruelty charge should have been dismissed without question. Therefore, I believe that Harvey and Jacqueline will appeal this ruling as the Judge was not thinking logically, and the couple were disproportionately punished as they didn't physically abuse the dog, a typical requirement for "Cruelty to Animals" charge. In the meantime, as for the sentence, they will likely get a Conditional Discharge and a small fine as they have no history of animal abuse.

    • shane
      December 11, 2012 - 07:20

      Reply to Jack. How about when you become elderly instead of giving you care,medicine,food and love your family puts you out in the yard to die like a piece of trash. Maybe you know these two heartless creatures personally or maybe you're just completely ignorant. Making the case there was no abuse here is asinine.

    • Nancy
      December 11, 2012 - 09:37

      Well, we all know how you treat your animals Jack, don't we.

  • Helen
    December 10, 2012 - 21:53

    It's heart breaking to hear how that dog suffered, those people should not get away with the way they treated it, how could they go day by day and see that dog suffering, I hope they don't get of easy for what they did. It brought tears to my eyes, just reading how he was treated.

  • Will Cole
    December 10, 2012 - 19:57

    Bloody savages.

  • stephen
    December 10, 2012 - 18:56

    It is not a right to have an animal, its a privledge.This idiots will get nothing,and this dogs suffering will have been in vain. Hopefully Karma will come to fruition in this case and they will get theirs. RIP Max . Everyone go hug your pets for Max. He is doing fine on the other side......

  • Disgusted
    December 10, 2012 - 17:46

    What the hell is wrong with them???!! I hope they are treated no better in their old age.

  • Yvette
    December 10, 2012 - 16:40

    I hope that when such demons are seen in town, at the post office, shops bank whatever....someone will have the balls to remind them every miserable day of the suffering they caused......

    • MissD
      December 11, 2012 - 11:37

      I hope they are both shamed in their community. A DISGUSTING waste of space is what they both are. How can you keep an animal for 18 years and not care for it in the least? Trying not to judge others is lost on me here. There is no excuse or reason to let another living creature (much less your pet that is totally dependent on you in life) suffer in conditions like this, which they created!!! I hope you are both shamed in your community on a daily basis. I won't foget you Max.

  • SLR
    December 10, 2012 - 15:26

    One word...KARMA!!!!!! And may it get u both where it hurts most!!!

  • Leah
    December 10, 2012 - 15:11

    These two deserve each other; both are absolutely heartless. And those who live in the community and area who knew how Max was being treated, especially in elder years, and never reported it, or helped the innocent dog, are almost as guilty. I just cannot comprehend such cruelty. Why didn't they take him inside? Poor Max; hope there is such a place as Dog Heaven.

  • surprised
    December 10, 2012 - 14:38

    No matter what punishment, fine or whatever they receive for this, they will never suffer as much as that poor animal suffered. "willingful blind" is an understatement. It still amazes me that people argue that humans are more intelligent than animals.

    • OH MY
      December 10, 2012 - 14:47

      oh my people!. . they would NEVER go to jail long enough for my likings. Theres nothing more innocent out there like an animal. (only a baby) NO ANIMAL NO ANYTHING on the face of this earth deserves to go through what poor Max went through.. The owners should be thrown in a cell with the roof half off and a bottle of frozen water and no food! How selfish can ya get b'ys? honest to god.. PEOPLE!!! UGH!