On December 10, 2007, Mr. Folk stabbed and killed the eight-month-old dog of his neighbour while trespassing on the neighbour’s property. He was charged under s. 445(5)(a) of the Criminal Code for wilfully and without lawful excuse killing a dog. Mr. Folk claimed that he had killed the dog with lawful excuse – namely, that the dog was barking, and when he went to the back of the neighbour’s property to tell the dog to stop, he stepped inside the gate where the dog was tethered, was bitten by the dog and stabbed the dog in self-defence. Hospital reports confirmed that Mr. Folk suffered significant dog bites to both hands. Mr. Folk had previously lodged complaints with his neighbour and with the municipal authorities about the barking. However, for the bylaw to be enforced in anyway more than a written warning to the owners, Mr. Folk would have to keep a detailed five-day-log regarding the barking and its impact; Mr. Folk found this a challenging task given his learning disability and did not keep such an account. Mr. Folk’s father testified that Mr. Folk was deeply disturbed by the barking and felt powerless to stop it.
The Court rejected Mr. Folk’s explanation of his actions, noting that it was improbable that Mr. Folk simply happened to have a five-inch hunting knife on him when he went to confront the dog as well as several inconsistencies in Mr. Folk’s testimony. The Court also rejected the idea that going to his neighbour’s property to yell at a dog was a reasonable course of action for silencing the dog, and that if he believed such action sufficient, he would not have committed the further trespass of going into the dog’s enclosure.
Indeed, the Court found that even had Mr. Folk’s explanation been accepted, it would not constitute a lawful excuse. Mr. Folk’s purpose in trespassing (confronting the dog) did not justify the trespass, or the further entry through the gate to where the dog was tethered. Mr. Folk was thus found guilty as charged.
The Crown sought a jail term for 3-4 months, emphasizing the principles of denunciation and deterrence as well as the continued danger to the public given the probability of Mr. Folk encountering other barking dogs. Though the Court noted that the courts have tended towards imposing serious sentences in cases involving family pets, the victim impact statements of the dog’s owners attesting to the traumatized nature of their family, and acknowledged that the Crown’s suggestion was reasonable, Mr. Folk was given a conditional sentence order for six months, to be followed by two years’ probation. In justifying this sentence, the Court stated that Mr. Folk’s disabilities would make a sentence in a correctional facility particularly harsh and that he was unlikely to reoffend.
Source: Case Law
Jurisdiction: British Columbia