WHITEHORSE, Yukon – The Yukon Supreme Court is to hear its first capital case in living memory when a judge decides the fate of a dog who supporters say stands unjustly accused.
If they win, the German-shepherd-Rottweiler cross named Trevor will probably go to a new home in the bush outside Whitehorse.
If they lose, he will be destroyed.
“He’s on death row,” says Kevin Sinclair, the Whitehorse man who’s already won one injunction to save the two-year old male with big brown eyes from that most dreaded of all vet visits.
“Trevor just got a raw deal,” says Gerry Steers, president of the Yukon Humane Society. “That’s why we’re fighting to save his life.”
Trevor entered the canine legal system last January when bylaw officers found him chained up outside a home. He had been abused and neglected to the point where his flesh was growing around his collar.
He was removed from the home and taken to the humane society’s animal shelter, where he was nursed back to health and resocialized.
In May, he was adopted out to a woman, who would end up giving Trevor to her brother. But on July 14, the dog was accused of having bitten three people and was turned over to the city pound.
“(One victim) got out of his vehicle and the dog ran up and bit him on the arm – no provocation,” said John Taylor, Whitehorse’s head of bylaw enforcement. “He broke the skin and bruised him quite badly.”
Taylor declared Trevor a dangerous dog and Whitehorse bylaws stipulate that he should therefore be destroyed.
Trevor hadn’t had a rabies shot, so the city had to hold him for 10 days to make sure he hadn’t infected anyone.
That gave Sinclair time to act. He filed for a temporary injunction to save Trevor from being killed. The order was granted Tuesday.
On Aug. 6, Sinclair is to argue before a judge that Trevor’s adoptive owner breached the contract she signed when she gave the dog to her brother. The contract says that when adoptions fail, the animal must be returned to the humane society.
Trevor belongs to the society, not the city, says Steers. And the society isn’t prepared to give up on him without a fight.
Whitehorse has provisions to allow owners to keep dogs designated as dangerous if they are properly contained and muzzled. The status may be removed if the dog’s behaviour remains good.
Sinclair and Speers say they’ve got experienced dog owners with proper facilities lined up to take Trevor home.
They question the conditions he was kept under in his adopted home, and point out that, up until he bit someone, Trevor seems to have been a good dog.
Even when he was chained, hungry and hurt, he presented no problem to the officer who rescued him from his original owner, they say. Shelter staff report he was friendly and calm during his time there.
At the pound, he’s a favourite.
“We had a barbecue last week and we fed him hamburgers,” says Taylor, who’s got two adopted dogs himself. “He’s a good skookum (courageous) dog.”
Aug. 6 is probably Trevor’s last chance. Steers says the humane society doesn’t have the money to fight a protracted court battle.
Taylor says public safety has to come first.
“Because of the number of bites, we have concerns about that.”
So if every dog has his day, Trevor’s will have to be in court.
“If we don’t win this,” says Steers, “it’s too bad, because (then) Trevor’s gone.”