No criminal record for Calgary man who beat puppy to death

CALGARY HERALD | MAY 7, 2010
By Daryl Slade

CALGARY – A 21-year-old city man will not have a criminal record for beating a four-month-old husky puppy to death with a piece of wood, if he successfully completes a year of probation.

Provincial court Judge Terry Semenuk, in imposing the conditional discharge on Jacob Michael Rabeau on Friday, said although hitting the dog was unnecessary, “the offence was impulsive.”

Semenuk noted that Rabeau was in fear of the dog, Shea, when it came at him early on the morning of Aug. 2, 2007, as he stopped to urinate in an alley in the southeast community of Queensland. But he also admitted he overreacted.

“Even if he had a bona fide fear of the dog while urinating, he could have simply got into his vehicle and driven away,” Semenuk said in his decision.

Rabeau previously pleaded guilty to causing the dog’s death. He must pay $800 restitution to the owner, Justin Kotulak, and $250 to the Calgary Humane Society. He also must take counselling for anger management.

Willie deWit, Rabeau’s lawyer, said outside court his client was relieved. “This has been hanging over his head for a number of years. It certainly has been a drain on him,” deWit said.

“Of course, he feels badly. He still has to deal with probation and counselling, but he’s glad to get it behind him and move on.

“Certainly, this happened on the spur of the moment. As he said, he’d rather take a bite now than react like that.”

Court heard the dog, which weighed no more than 4.5 kilograms, had escaped from its yard after owner Justin Kotulak let it out into the yard late at night.

When the dog came towards Rabeau, he retreated to his car, grabbed a 2-by-4 or baseball bat and struck the dog on the head.

Heather Anderson, founder of animal rights group DAISY (Delegates Against Inhumane Suffering Y), said she was extremely disappointed with the sentence.

“It’s the worst slap on the wrist I’ve seen,” she said outside court. “He deliberately killed this dog . . . and robbed this family of a lot of years of love from this dog.

“What is $800 when you lose a family member. Kids have to suffer and they blame themselves for letting the dog loose in the first place.”

Crown prosecutor Richelle Freiheit, who had sought 21 to 30 days jail, said she was surprised by the sentence, but would have to review the judge’s written decision before deciding whether to appeal.

“It’s been very tricky, because there is this explanation that he acted out of fear. It’s hard for someone to prove what’s in someone’s mind,” Freiheit said.

“You normally have to look at their actions. In this case we’ve got a man who says, ‘I love dogs, I’ve had pets.’ I can’t dispute that he was afraid. To me, it’s a bit strange to be afraid of a four-month-old husky puppy, if you’ve had that experience with dogs. But we can only prove what people saw and the evidence that was there.”

Court heard Kotulak had let Shea out into the backyard shortly before the incident and he managed to escape. When Kotulak discovered his dog was missing and went to the alley to look, he approached a vehicle with several occupants and heard one voice say “we just killed it.”

The owner then discovered the puppy, which had severe head trauma, was bleeding from the ears and started convulsing. The car then drove away.

Kotulak then picked up Shea and carried him to the backyard, where the puppy died in his arms.

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