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Crystal Smith should have known the risks of letting them off leash, judge says
A St. John’s woman - whose dogs mauled a cat to death last summer - knew the risk of her dogs getting lose, but did nothing to avoid it, a judge said Wednesday.
“In essence, you were reckless, letting the dogs off leash when you had no authority to take them off leash,” Judge Lori Marshall said Wednesday in convicting Crystal Smith of charges under the province's Animal Health and Protection Act.
Smith, 40, had pleaded not guilty of one count each of unlawfully allowing a companion animal to cause a hazard and failing to keep a dog tethered or penned.
However, Marshall was not satisfied that Smith “exercised due diligence” and didn’t do enough to prevent the incident.
Smith testified during the trial last month that she owns four dogs and that on the morning of Aug. 4, 2018, she took two of them Keiko (an Amstaff Boston terrier) and Luna (an Amstaff bulldog mix) to a public tennis court on Stamps Lane, where she shut the gate and let them off their leashes to run around. She said she had taken the dogs there before to roam freely without incident, since it is enclosed with a chain-link fence.
However, she said when she pulled out her cellphone to check a text message and looked up moments later, the dogs were gone. She then saw there was a hole in the fence, where they escaped. She said she panicked and furiously checked the area, calling to them. She said she feared what they would do without her there and worried because the Farmer’s Market had opened nearby on Freshwater Road.
She said she called a friend to help as well as the city’s Humane Services. She also made a Facebook post about the missing dogs.
“You obviously recognized your dogs were capable of inflicting great harm.” — Judge Lori Marshall
Humane Services called Smith back to tell her the dogs had been located on Wishingwell Place, where they had gotten hold of a cat.
A neighbour of the cat’s owner had spotted the large, muscular dogs barking savagely and trying to get at the cat, named Meshroudi, which was on top of a fence. He called the SPCA and the RNC.
He then saw the dogs get hold of the cat and maul it on the ground.
The cat was found dead in the same place.
Once Smith arrived, it took her and several others 27 minutes to corral the dogs and get them in the car. The dogs had blood on their faces and paws.
In handing down the verdict, the judge stressed that a tennis court — a public recreation facility — was no place to allow dogs to roam freely.
“Anyone intending to play tennis could have entered at any time,” Marshall said.
“Also, you had no authority to be (there) .... and you should’ve known the risks.”
Marshall pointed out that Smith had expressed grave concern about the dogs’ behaviour once loose and in sentencing, said to her, “You obviously recognized your dogs were capable of inflicting great harm.”
The judge said Smith did nothing to control those risks by putting the dogs in obedience classes or training.
And she noted the difficulty and time it took for Smith and others to get the dogs corralled and in the vehicle.
“It took you half an hour...,” Marshall said. “Even when you are present, you are not a master of your own dogs.”
The sentencing hearing is set for June 25.
The sentence for these regulatory offences range from a fine to an order to have the dog’s destroyed.