Thursday, June 2, 2011

Owner shocked after dogs' killer given 1 yr conditional sentence

By Collin Gallant, Medicine Hat News

The Cypress County man is heartbroken and says a neighbouring rancher got off easy after pleading guilty to shooting two family pets north of Redcliff.
"Every time I come to that corner I still get choked up," said Zane Hankel, whose two dogs — a pit bull named Money and a yellow lab named Bear — were found shot to death in a snow drift near his home last year.
"If you shoot a buck or doe out of season, you can get your truck taken away, sometimes jail, fines and lose your hunting privileges forever, and so on.
"This guy shoots two family pets and he gets a little slap on the wrist, a year's probation and has to pay us (the value of) our bills of sale (for the dogs)... that's it."
Hankel says there wasn't any bad blood between his family and Norman Wittevrongel, a nearby landowner, who pled guilty last month in Provincial Court to shooting the dogs.
Messages left with Wittevrongel on Wednesday seeking comment were not returned.
His reasoning, said Hankel, was that he thought the dogs were strays.
"Whether or not he thought that, you never shoot someone's dogs," said Hankel.
Wittevrongel was charged with two counts of injuring non-livestock animals in February 2010.
The maximum penalty for such an indictable offence is a five-year prison term, or, in less serious cases, a fine of up to $10,000 can be applied.
Wittevrongel was given a 12-month conditional discharge, requiring him to stay out of trouble, and was ordered to pay restitution for the cost of the dogs, about $3,000.
Hankel says that he's already received the money, but a stronger penalty should have been levelled. He's also frustrated because he says he was told by authorities to keep the case quiet rather than risk the charges becoming an emotional powder keg in the greater community.
The case will no doubt cause some debate, especially in the countryside.
Ranchers have long had to deal with coyotes, foxes and even stray dogs that threaten their livestock.
And underlying the entire series of events is a sense that the whole episode could have been avoided.
Apparently Wittevrongel is the landowner but not the farm's full-time operator, said Hankel — though the man often works on the property.
Hankel says he had a good relationship with the operator and when the dogs had earlier wandered over a few miles to find a bitch in heat, Hankel's family smoothed things over.
He felt that there was an agreement that the dogs' wanderings caused no problems.
But without being there full-time, Wittevrongel may not have been aware of their visits.
And even so, the RCMP says that landowners don't necessarily have the right to shoot dogs that wander onto their property.
Speaking generally about the issue, RCMP communications officer Sgt. Patrick Webb said that if a strange dog isn't causing a problem, shooting it is an overreaction.
"Most of it involves what the animal is doing at the time," said Webb.
If an animal is attacking livestock or a person, landowners have the right to use more powerful means to prevent further damage.
"By far what we would like to see is it never getting to that point," said Webb.
"If neighbors have a dispute over something they should work with us, work with the county or the Municipal District to resolve it.
"There are all sorts of solutions if people work together," said Webb.

1 comment:

  1. Um, at what point do the dog owners start to take responsibility for allowing their pets to roam - they state that this had happened earlier and yet they took no precautions? It is sad that these dogs had to pay for their owner's negligence and it would have been just as sad if any livestock had been injured or killed. When will people realize that having a pet is a privilege not a right?

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