The man who beat his German shepherd and left him for dead in a Kitsilano dumpster last summer says he did so because he thought the dog had been poisoned – and it was his responsibility to euthanize him.
The claim was heard Tuesday at Brian Whitlock's sentencing hearing in Vancouver Provincial Court. After recounting the events of Mr. Whitlock's life that led up to the July, 2012, incident, Crown lawyer Jordan Hauschildt recommended a sentence of four to six months in jail less time served, three years' probation and a lifetime ban on possessing animals.
Mr. Whitlock's lawyers, on the other hand, recommended a non-custodial sentence and three years' probation, noting the 26-year-old developed mental health issues after the dissolution of his relationship with his spouse.
The court heard Mr. Whitlock believed the two-year-old dog, named Captain, had eaten something strange while out on a walk and that substance had somehow changed the dog's temperament. In a statement to police, he said Captain had become "a different dog" and was "going evil or something," according to Tony Paisana, one of his lawyers.
"When Captain did not improve, [Mr. Whitlock] became fixated with this notion that he had been poisoned or cursed by someone in the neighbourhood," said Mr. Paisana, noting one forensic psychiatrist diagnosed Mr. Whitlock with paranoid schizophrenia.
Mr. Whitlock said he eventually struck the dog with a baseball bat three times, aiming to break its neck, then wrapped it in a blanket and put it in a dumpster when he believed it was dead. In hindsight, he says he recognizes he should have sought veterinary assistance.
Mr. Paisana said his client had considered burying the dog, but was worried coyotes would get to it. Mr. Whitlock, who accepts that he acted intentionally but believed he was not acting out of cruelty, claimed he loved the dog and wrapped it in a blanket they shared before placing it in the dumpster.
Captain died one day after the B.C. SPCA rescued him from the dumpster, located near the intersection of Maple Street and Cornwall Avenue. The dog was underweight, had lacerations on his head and neck and was unable to walk. The man who discovered the dog said there was garbage on the dog's head and a paper bag filled with blood-stained towels nearby.
While Mr. Whitlock said he only struck the dog three times with a baseball bat, Crown lawyer Mr. Hauschildt noted Captain did suffer some unexplained puncture wounds.
Justice David St. Pierre pointed out there is no crime in euthanizing one's pet; the crime is in causing unnecessary pain and suffering to an animal.
At Mr. Whitlock's home, police located a baseball bat with remnants of fur on it, an eight- or nine-foot chain and a wooden walking stick.
There was dog feces throughout the home.
Several animal activists, who donned white T-shirts that read "For the love of Captain" and "R.I.P. Captain, July 19, 2012," sobbed openly as Crown counsel recounted details of the attack and subsequent discovery. Many expressed shock at the Crown's recommended sentence.
Kat Chapman, who wanted the maximum sentence of five years in jail, said she was "extremely disappointed."
"I didn't expect this at all," she said, wiping away tears. "Minus time served? I just don't get it."
Marcie Moriarty, chief prevention and enforcement officer with the B.C. SPCA, said she wants Mr. Whitlock to receive jail time and a lifetime ban on possessing animals "to reflect the gravity" of the offence. She dismissed his claim that he was euthanizing the dog.
"To characterize that as a euthanasia is completely erroneous," she said outside the courthouse after Tuesday's submissions. "A euthanasia means humane. I think that word gets tossed around a lot and it was today. Euthanasia equals humane death and, most certainly, that's not what Captain got."
The matter will return to court next Wednesday.