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Woman whose dogs killed cat in St. John's ordered to pay $900 fine, abide by strict conditions

Crystal Smith of St. John’s was back in provincial court in St. John’s Wednesday to take in the verdict in her case. She was found guilty of charges under the province's Animal Health and Protection Act, which were laid in connection with an incident last summer, when her dogs escaped and mauled a cat to death.
Crystal Smith in provincial court during a previous appearance. - Telegram file photo

Crystal Smith can keep one of the dogs, but can never again have custody of the other

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

Crystal Smith wanted the judge to let her keep her two dogs and give her a $500 fine.

Crown prosecutor Renée Coates wanted the dogs surrendered to the SPCA and Smith banned from owning animals for two years.

This week, provincial court Judge Lori Marshall delivered a sentence that is somewhere down the middle, as a consequence for allowing the dogs to run off-leash, resulting in them mauling a cat to death last year.

“The cat could have been, the Crown would submit, a baby, a small child or even an adult." — Renée Coates

Smith, 40, was convicted in May, after a trial, of unlawfully allowing a companion animal to cause a hazard and failing to keep a dog tethered or penned. Her two dogs — Keiko, an Amstaff-Boston terrier, and Luna, an Amstaff-bulldog — chased a cat in a residential garden on Wishingwell Place in August 2018 and mauled it to death, leaving blood on the dogs’ faces and paws.

Smith had taken Keiko and Luna to a gated public tennis court on Stamp’s Lane and let them run off-leash. The dogs escaped through a hole in a chain-link fence when she wasn’t looking and made their way to Wishingwell Place, where a resident saw them maul Meshroudi, the pet cat of his neighbour, in his backyard.

When Smith arrived on scene, the court heard, it took her and police officers almost half an hour to corral the two dogs, which were chasing another cat.

Marshall found Smith guilty of the two charges — which are liability-related only and not criminal — saying Smith hadn’t done enough to prevent the incident, especially since she knew her dogs were capable of harm.

Smith’s sentencing hearing spanned three days, with significant breaks in between, allowing a local dog trainer time to work with Keiko and Luna and present her impressions of their training potential to the court. Smith’s adult daughter now has possession of Keiko, the court heard, and the trainer indicated both women were committed to continuing with training for both dogs.

“Ms. Smith is clearly a responsible dog owner,” defence lawyer Alexandra Kindervater had argued. “She realizes what happened, what the error was, and won’t let it happen again.”

“She realizes what happened, what the error was, and won’t let it happen again.” — Alexandra Kindervater

Coates had pointed out Smith had not sought any training for the dogs until after she was found guilty. Meshroudi had been a well-loved pet and bystanders had been horrified to witness the dogs’ attack, Coates said, and Smith had experienced difficulty controlling the dogs when she arrived.

“The cat could have been, the Crown would submit, a baby, a small child or even an adult,” Coates said.

Marshall sentenced Smith to pay a $900 fine within the next 12 months, and banned her from ever having care and control of Keiko again.

Smith can retain custody of Luna as well as the two other dogs she owns, but is banned from having more animals and cannot reside with children under 16 for the rest of Luna’s life.

Keiko must stay with Smith’s daughter, Marshall ordered, and if the young woman can no longer care for the dog, she must surrender it to the SPCA for suitable rehoming. Keiko cannot be around other animals or children under 16 for the rest of her life, Marshall ordered.

As well, the judge ordered the two dogs to remain in training for one year, unless the trainer provides a written letter to the court indicating training is no longer necessary.

Twitter: @tara_bradbury


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