Saturday, November 29, 2008

The difference between selling your car or setting it on fire

Up in New Brunswick there's a trial going on about a breeder who instead of turning over his breeding stock to the NB SPCA - killed them while the Special Constables were outside the door waiting to seize them. He's been charged with animal cruelty.

The first thing I want to make a comment about is the fact that he is having his trial on the 29th of November 2008 and he committed his crime on March 6, 2008. Zonda MacIsaac had her kennel and accesory building raided around the first of February 2008 - and she yet to enter a PLEA in her case - her next court date is like the 5th of December, 2008 or something ridiculous like that. I just want to point that out so that we can see the absolute pathetic lack of justice that is going on here in Nova Scotia in regards to animal cruelty cases.

But back to the pomeranian story. In the trial, the breeder said that he believed he was allowed to end the dogs' lives since they were his property and he couldn't bear for the SPCA to take them away.

Keith Barton may have been right that his dogs are in fact his property - and there's nothing wrong in beleiving that. Our dogs are considered to be our property, and I actually don't have too much of a problem with that - a lot of people DO have a problem with that because they believe that it makes animals appear like a commodity, or disposable, or less than alive - but to me I am always concerned with keeping the dogs as safe as possible. And by having them considered as my property, from a liability and legal standpoint - they are much safer than if they were considered as their own separate entities.

So those little pomeranians were Mr. Barton's property, and it was his right to end their lives as he deemed fit - but it most certainly wasn't his right to do it in a way that caused them distress and suffering. That is animal cruelty and punishment - and is a crime under the eyes of the law - so he should be punished for what he did.

Even if he didn't think he was breaking the law because he thought that he had the right to kill them because they were his property - it behooved him to kill them in a humane manner - and a hit with a blunt object to the back of te head was not a humane way to kill a pomeranian. Especially since 8 of the dogs he tried to kill lived - and ones like Ronald - the dog above in the photo - were really screwed up by the beating.

It's hard to get inside people's brains and figure out what makes them do things - and this is certainly one of those cases. How could someone do such a horrible thing, and then say that they loved these dogs and it killed him to do it but he saw nno alternative. How can we help this man and show him that what he did hurt his dogs and was so unnecessary? Were there alternatives that he couldn't see? We'll never know. I certainly hope Mr. Barton is out of the breeding business though.

Here's the newspaper article from today:

Breeder says he killed dogs to spare them pain
Published Saturday November 29th, 2008

A dog breeder who killed five Pomeranians earlier this year when an animal-protection officer was about to take them away says he did it because he thought it was the best thing for them.

Keith C. Barton's animal-cruelty trial resumed in Burton provincial court Friday. Testimony in the case was heard in September as well.

Barton, 73, of 1257 Pleasant Dr. in Minto stands accused of five March 6 counts of killing a dog and one count of injuring a dog, all under the Criminal Code of Canada.

He also faces three counts of failing to provide adequate food, water, shelter and/or care under the provincial SPCA Act.

Barton testified in his defence Friday, telling the court he feared what might happen to his dogs if they were taken away.

He said he expected being separated from him would be detrimental to them, and he doesn't believe all veterinarians treat animals well when owners aren't there to monitor care.

Animal-protection officials visited his home March 6 after a visit the week before. They said they were seizing the dogs because the conditions of Barton's kennel were unsanitary and needed to be brought up to standards.

Barton said he decided to euthanize the Pomeranians himself, and, out of sight of the officers, he struck each one once with a hammer at the back of the head.

He delivered blows to the heads of six Pomeranians, but one survived.

"To my knowledge, I rendered them unconscious," he said.

"I thought I had the right to put them down. I didn't think I was breaking any law ... I loved those dogs so desperately."

Officials told Barton he had to keep the kennel clean and dry, and that he had to shovel snow to keep their play area open.

Barton testified he'd come down with shingles in December and has had seven heart attacks. Last winter saw heavy snowfalls, he said, and there was just too much for him to contend with.

"I told them I wasn't going to give myself another heart attack," he said, noting he's found it impossible to find someone to help him.

Barton admitted he hadn't kept the kennel as clean as he usually did that week due to his illness and the heavy snow.

"I don't think I looked after them as good as I usually do last winter," he said.

A few other dogs were seized alive and treated by local vets.

Oromocto veterinarian Dr. Erin Grant said she examined one, a female, that had an impaired leg, the result of a previous broken bone that didn't heal properly.

She said a month after it was seized, the dog underwent an amputation procedure. It died a few hours after the surgery.

Barton was upset to learn that, and his anger was apparent when he was on the witness stand.

"I don't think you should be persecuting me for cruelty," he said, referring to that dog's death while in the care of a veterinarian.

He said the dog broke her leg when she was four years old in the mid 1990s. He'd taken her to a vet, who put the leg in a cast, but it never healed properly.

Barton had to pause to compose himself a couple of times on the witness stand.

Veterinary pathologist Dr. James Goltz testified Friday the five dogs died as a result of blunt-force trauma to the back of their heads.

He said striking dogs in that spot with a hammer is not an approved method of animal euthanasia.

Defence lawyer Edward Derrah argued Friday that Barton should be acquitted of the Criminal Code charges because he had a sincere belief that he was within his rights to put down his animals, as they're his property.

That colour-of-right defence means that while ignorance of the law isn't a defence, an honest but mistaken belief about one's rights and the law can be if the mistaken belief is reasonable, said Judge Patricia Cumming.

"I think that's going to be the big question here," the judge said. "This is obviously the crux of the defence."

She urged Crown prosecutor Paul Hawkins to offer more submissions on that point.

The case was adjourned to Jan. 7 so the prosecution and defence can present more arguments on that point of law.


  1. Anonymous10:45 AM

    The Association of Veternarians for Animal Rights refuse to "put down " animals unless they are gravely ill. I don't think Mr. Barton should have the right to kill these animals no matter which method he chooses.Your contention that animals are safer as property I don't think is true. Maybe you could expand on why you do. The complication comes when we try to distinguish "companion animals" from animals we use for food science etc. These are treated as property so the industries can do what ever they want to them an define the word "humane" to suit their efficiency money making goals and the individual animal is no consequence.RG.

  2. Anonymous10:21 AM

    How come it's okay for him to kill his dogs?? I agree with RG. THink about it this way: if one of his dogs hit the other dogs on the head, it would be declared dangerous and put down!

    Barton most certainly does not have the right to kill his animals for the reasons he appears to have killed them. If that were true, then anti-cruelty laws would be 100% unenforceable: it sets a dangerous precedent to apply the same argument to the whole spectrum of abuse, from neglect to killing.

    That's why the judge's comment is disturbing. She says "ignorance of the law isn't a defence" then jumps to "an honest but mistaken belief about one's rights and the law can be if the mistaken belief is reasonable." ???
    No it can't! Lots of ignorant people are sincere in their ignorance! SO WHAT?

    Who defines reasonable, and for whom? Many men still sincerely believe it's reasonable to attack a scantily dressed woman. Some people sincerely believe it's wrong to pay taxes and don't know the law. Others sincerely believe they shouldn't have to obey the speed limit. If they get the right judge, their case might win.
    But if "sincere belief" is not enough in those instances, it is surely not enough to defend Barton.

    There will always be an inherent contradiction in the long as long as it defines animals as inanimate (property) . It does not square with the interest of protecting all life, and people on all sides -owners, breeders, enforcers, litigators - will always try to exploit this contradiction.

    Having said this: take a long look at how Barton's case was handled. Were the officers unaware of his physical and emotional stress? Did anybody come forward to assist him with his dogs during his hard year? Was he given a warning with a deadline to improve the conditions? Or did they just surprise him one day, and come to get the dogs?
    What sort of wisdom was used here, if any?

    There has to be reasonable law enforcement.
    I believe in agricultural cases, owners are given a lot more chances and a lot more warnings. Pet owners should have the same.

  3. Anonymous3:32 PM

    He was actually given 7 days to clean up the mess that these dogs were living in and he chose not to do that. In the 7 days he was given, he did not even ATTEMPT to clean. Had he shown that he truly was trying, his dogs would not have been seized. This is a man who has been cruel not only to his animals, but to humans also. Believe me when I say that men like Keith Barton find it convenient to show emotion when it serves their purpose. He didn't love those dogs...he loved the money that they made for him.