The Nova Scotia SPCA’s chief provincial inspector says she is disappointed in the sentence handed down to the owner of a husky that starved to death while locked in a car.
Jo-Anne Landsburg responded to the scene that day and says it was one of the worst cases of animal cruelty she’s seen in her five years with the SPCA.
The dog, believed to be between eight and 18 months old, was found dead inside of a kennel on May 25 in the back seat of a car at a downtown Halifax parkade.
A blanket had been placed over the kennel, while a bag of dog food sat in the front seat. It’s believed the car had been at the parkade for weeks.
“It was a very sad situation. As soon as I opened the door of the vehicle, there was a very strong smell of ammonia — something rotting, it smelled like. So when we removed the dog, the dog was obviously in a state of decomposition. It had been there for a very long time,” she said.
“It looked like the dog had been clawing through the cage to eat some of the foam of the seat. And in the necropsy report, it also indicated that there was plastic inside the dog’s stomach. That would indicate the dog, just before death, was still willing and able to eat pretty much anything.”
Bethany MacLean of Little Narrows, N.S., pleaded guilty to animal cruelty and was given four months of house arrest, 20 months of probation and a 10-year ban on owning animals.
Landsburg says she was surprised with the sentence.
“The animal died a very long and painful death so the pathology report indicated that the dog suffered weeks, if not months, of starvation left alone in this vehicle,” she said.
“That’s why, considering the severity, we certainly would have liked to see the judge issue a jail sentence and a lifetime prohibition from ever owning animals again.”
Landsburg says that jail sentences for animal cruelty are rare in Nova Scotia, although they are handed down more often in other parts of the country, including British Columbia. That’s why she believes Nova Scotia “has a little ways to catch up.”
“We’re hopeful that as more cases come forward, we’ll see greater penalties imposed,” she said.
“I think it’s just a matter of the times. We’re starting to take animal cruelty more seriously here in Nova Scotia so it’s just a matter of seeing these cases come before the courts, using previous case law and having the judges look at that and impose these penalties.”
She says she finds it concerning that MacLean could own animals in the future but hopes that she “has remorse for this and will never do it again.”
Landsburg is also hoping the case serves as a reminder to pet owners that animal cruelty shouldn’t be an option.
“Regardless of what your life brings to you, whatever hardships you may be encountering, there’s always somebody that you can reach out to,” she said.
“Reach out to the SPCA, and we will take your animals in for you if you can no longer provide for them for whatever reason. There’s no excuse to neglect an animal in this way or any way.”