Human victims of crime show up at court all the time. Canine victims? Not so much.
But a surprise visit from a group of pit bulls caught everyone’s eye at provincial court in St. John’s Thursday.
Four of them were outside Courtroom No. 7 as their owners awaited the outcome of an animal cruelty case, in which two of the dogs were reportedly affected.
Ross A. Martin — who faces more than a dozen animal cruelty-related charges — wasn’t in court when his case was called. He was represented by lawyer Randy Piercey.
Piercey told Judge Pamela Goulding that he was just retained by Martin and he needed time to review the file. He and Crown prosecutor Danny Vavasour agreed to set the case over until July 31.
As lawyers and reporters left the courtroom, they were greeted in the hallway by wagging tails and yelps from the four evidently healthy dogs.
Two of the pit bulls, Willa and Ruby Rose, were two of seven dogs that were reportedly mistreated by Martin.
“The big thing I wanted to do today by coming down (to court) … was to bring to the forefront (the issue of) animal abuse,” said Bill Dicks, who owns Willa.
“You hear so much of it in this province now, and we have to get the message out that it’s no longer acceptable and people are going to have to pay the price if they don’t look after their animals.”
Owners of the other two pit bulls came to court to offer their support and condemn Martin’s alleged ill treatment of the dogs.
The 35-year-old Conception Bay South man was arrested May 13 and is charged with seven counts each of causing unnecessary suffering to an animal and causing damage or injury to an animal (animal cruelty) under the Criminal Code of Canada.
He’s also facing additional charges under the Animal Health and Protection Act — being the owner, permitting an animal to be in distress, failing to keep a dog safety tethered or penned and non-compliance with standards in Schedule B (Dog Owners).
The charges were laid following a three-month investigation that began after the dogs were seized from a property on Kennedy’s Road in Upper Gullies on Dec. 11, 2013.
About 5:45 p.m. that day, RNC patrol services responded to a report from a municipal enforcement officer with the Town of C.B.S. regarding a report of neglected animals.
Local veterinary personnel were also contacted to assist in the case.
The seven pit bulls were taken from the property and brought to a veterinary hospital for treatment.
After hearing what happened, Dicks and Rhonda Brophy, who was also at court, each adopted one. Brophy adopted Ruby Rose. The other five dogs have also reportedly found good homes and are doing well.
“As you can see now, they’re nice, healthy dogs,” Dicks said of the two at court. “We’re just here because they can’t speak for themselves.”
Dicks said when he first got Willa, she was severely malnourished, weighing only 22 pounds. Today, she’s 50 pounds.
He said he had to introduce Willa to living inside a house, including teaching her how to walk up stairs.
“She’s a very mild-mannered dog,” Dicks said. “She loves people and loves animals. She’s just a great house pet. … “There’s no more viciousness or ferociousness in them than there is in my left foot.”
Dicks said he’d like to send a message to the public that if anyone doesn’t want to care for their animals, abusing them is not the answer.
“There are other options out there. Call the SPCA or Humane Services, but do something,” he said.
“Don’t just abuse them because you will be caught and you will be charged.”