Nunavik dog-killer gets conditional discharge

On the day that Justice Minister Anne McLellan introduced a new animal cruelty bill, a Kuujjuaraapik man walked away from court with a $500 fine after brutally stabbing his neighbour’s dog to death.

By JANE GEORGE

IQALUIT — A Kuujjuaraapik man whose dog was brutally stabbed to death is enraged at a light sentence handed down to another Kuujjuaraapik man who committed the crime.

On Dec. 1, Yvan Létourneau, who heads Quebec’s housing office in Kuujjuaraapik, la Société immobilière du Québec, received a $500 fine.

Létourneau had pleaded guilty to one count of prowling at night, and one count of wilfully killing a dog.

The court also imposed a six-month probation order on Létourneau, under which he will be required to keep the peace, pay $300 compensation to Gagné, and $200 to the local woman’s shelter.

If he fulfills the conditions of the order, he will earn a conditional discharge, after which he will not have a criminal record.

Christian Gagné, the owner of the dog that Létourneau killed, says the court should have imposed a heavier sentence.

“I’m not satisfied,” a furious Gagné told Nunatsiaq News. “There was no justice.”

Around 9:45 pm on August 27, as Yvan Létourneau staggered home drunk from the Qilalugaq bar in Kuujjuaraapik, he passed Gagné’s house.

Annoyed by Gagné’s dog, Capitaine, and enraged at his neighbour over a job-related dispute, Létourneau told police that he went home to fetch a kitchen knife.

Then he returned to Gagné’s house and stabbed Gagné’s dog to death.

When Gagné walked outside the next morning to feed his dog, he found the animal lying still at the end of his chain.

“I couldn’t believe he was dead,” Gagné said.

Gagné followed Capitaine’s chain back to a small shed where the dog usually slept. Its walls and floor were splashed in blood. On the floor of the shed was a watch, which eventually connected Létourneau to the crime.

Gagné now believes the watch fell off Létourneau’s wrist as the assailant grappled with the chained dog in one hand and the knife in the other.

“My dog tried to defend himself,” Gagné said.

Gagné said he was particularly attached to the two-year old dog and had been training him to “ski-jog” with him.

While Gagné was deeply shaken by the sight that greeted him that August morning, he says that he’s now extremely angry over the nature of the punishment that his dog’s killer received last week.

In court, Létourneau’s brutal killing of Capitaine was attributed to the heavily-intoxicated man’s “sudden anger.”

Right now, the maximum penalty for animal cruelty and other related crimes is a $2000 fine with a maximum jail sentence of six months.

But last week, federal justice officials announced an overhaul of Canada’s cruelty to animals legislation that would make killing a dog a much more serious offense.

An omnibus bill introduced by Justice Minister Anne McLellan on the same day that Létourneau appeared in court in Kuujjuaraapik would make it illegal to brutally or viciously kill animals.

Under the new legislation, such an offense could become an indictable offence, rather than just a summary conviction offence.

The maximum penalty for intentional cruelty to animals would be raised to five years in prison, and all limits on fines would be lifted. A judge would also be able to forbid someone convicted of animal cruelty ever from owning pets in the future.

According to the justice department’s prepared release on the legislation, the bill’s stiff new measures are due to research that shows “a significant percentage of individuals who are violent towards animals later perpetrate violence towards people.”

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