Dog owner makes emotional appeal to overturn death sentence

A Peachland man's last ditch effort to save one of the "loves of his life" from being euthanized made for an emotional day in court.

A Peachland man’s last ditch effort to save one of the “loves of his life” from being euthanized made for an emotional Wednesday in a Kelowna courtroom.

Drew Panton’s eight year old Presa Canario, Jake, was sentenced to be euthanized earlier this year for fatally injuring a small, leashed dog that was out for a walk with its owner on New Year’s Day 2015. Another dog that was involved in the attack that day was returned to Panton, under strict conditions.

Panton delayed the death sentence with a Supreme Court appeal that was held Dec. 9. His aim, he said in court, is to either have the dog returned to him or put into another home in Kitimat.

He argued that Judge Ann Morrison erred in her decision in several instances. Of note, she took an earlier incident with another dog into account, when he believes she shouldn’t have, creating the appearance of a violent pattern.

In that case, Jake had an incident with a dog in his own home, and although that dog needed veterinary care several days later, it had nothing to do with the tussle with Panton’s dog.

Panton also argued that there was ample testimony that portrayed the dog as non-violent toward people, even when it was under threat.

“(Experts) established both dogs were friendly to people,” he said.

Even the owner of the dog that was fatally wounded said that when he kicked the big creature in the head after it bit into the body of his dog, puncturing its lungs, it backed off and wasn’t aggressive toward him.

That, said Panton, is evidence working in Jake’s favour.

“Jake did bite a dog, and it was a bad bite, no doubt about that,” he said, admitting that it’s evidence that the dog is dangerous.

It’s not, however, evidence that he’s irredeemable, he claimed, noting that with further training and safeguards in place Jake could live out his dotage peacefully.

He also argued that he’s capable of ensuring that Jake does live in a safe environment, noting that he’s been a good dog owner in the past and is even better now.

“For a momentary lapse (I’ll) have to live every new years knowing (my) dog is responsible for Mr. Clark’s pet’s death,” he said, through tears.

Panton said that he regularly visits the dog, which is in custody of the regional district, and has already made steps to ensure his home safe for its return.

“There’s no question I’d do that for the other love of my life,” he said.

Arguing against the appeal was RDCO lawyer Troy De Souza, who pointed out that even Panton’s own expert said that Jake was dangerous.

And if they had their way, however, both dogs would have been euthanized.

“Judge Wallace’s decision was King Solomon-ish. We don’t like it. Mr. Panton doesn’t like it. Maybe it’s reasonable,” he said.

Justice Skolrood has reserved his decision.   No indication when the written decision will be released.

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