No justice for Ben today

No justice for Ben today

Ben out in the park for the day


Ted was Lorna and Ed’s son. Ben was Ted’s dog.

Ted adopted him from the pound after hearing about this big gentle guy from his boss. Ben had been at the pound for three weeks.

They were buddies. Ted trained Ben. They played together. And together, they climbed the nearby mountains in their spare time. They were best friends.

Ben and Ted


Until Ted passed away the year before Ben, succumbing to cancer.

So Ben became kind of a connection to Ted for Ted’s folks. They did not hesitate to give Ben all the love that Ben gave to Ted. After all, they were family.

Losing Ben — especially so needlessly, so senselessly and by such negligence as an illegal snare trap — makes the hole they already had in their hearts even larger.

I guess the best you can say of the situation right now is that somewhere out there, Ted and Ben are back together and hopefully doing all the things they so loved to do together.

But here on earth, this carelessness needs to be more accurately addressed. John McWilliams purposely and negligently set an illegal snare trap in a publicly accessible park that should not have been where it was. And by these actions, he killed Ben. Thirty feet from Lorna, Ben was strangled in such a way that he could not even cry out for help.

At trial today in Cochrane, a slap on the wrist was handed down by the judge in this case. The stakes were a maximum fine of $100,000 and/or two years in jail plus the loss of his hunting license. But the judge fined John McWilliams $300.

Ben - 2009


That illegal snare could have killed a child. An adult. WHAT would the penalty have been then? That snare should never have been where it was. It was set weeks before hunting season went into effect by McWilliams’ own admission. Snares are not even legal in that particular recreational area per regulations. This snare could have killed Lorna as she walked Ben.

And for such gross negligence, John McWilliams pays $300 and returns to trapping as he does?

 

If this does not anger you into working for stricter penalties, I do not know what will. Ben should be alive making big holes in Lorna and Ed’s front yard. He should be there for Sarah, his dog mate. He should have never been strangled in an illegal snare in a public recreational park.

My deepest sympathies to Lorna and Ed that justice was not adequately served today.

I am tearfully speechless at this seeming injustice. I am so disappointed that such dangerously reckless negligence results in only a $300 fine. We MUST push for stronger punishments for our animals.


Ben – needlessly killed | The Story of Ben | Calgary Sun story | Global Edmonton story

 


Ben – needlessly killed in an illegal snare trap

Ben – needlessly killed in an illegal snare trap

TRIAL: May 6, 2010 | Alberta Provincial Court in Cochrane | $300 fine for killing Ben

“My husband and I were the proud caretakers of Ben. I won’t say “dog,” because he was much more to us than that. This is my husband’s favourite picture of Ben, as it shows him in the snow that he loved.”

That’s how one of the letters we received started.


“Let’s take the dogs up to Powderface before the season closes.”

A simple gesture that occurred many times over the years because the dogs loved it… a change of scenery, new sights, new smells. Just something Ed and Lorna did for their four-legged “kids.”

But their last trip in late November, 2010 was painfully different.

They loaded Ben and Sarah into the truck and drove out to Powerface. Even though Ed, for health reasons, could not make the walk, he still went with them and waited in the truck. Once there, Lorna headed off with the two dogs.

Ben, killed in an illegal snare trap November, 2011


Shortly into their walk Ben scampered off while Lorna broke the snowballs from between the pads on Sarah’s feet. Lorna called him, but he did not come. Much unlike the big guy. So she whistled and called some more. Nothing. She walked further down the valley. There was no sign of him, no barking, no movement… nothing. Without a sound, he had just vanished.

Darkness was starting to fall, so Lorna and Ed decided they would have to come back the next day for Ben.

Returning the next day after hanging signs and talking to people about Ben, Lorna followed Ben’s tracks into the woods. She did not get very far before she found him. Dead.

Strangled in a snare trap.

 

“Ben was only about 30 feet from me in the bush, and I never heard a thing. The conservation officer said [the snare] would have instantly closed off his breathing, so he never had the opportunity to call out.”

Accidents happen and a dog is surely no match for a snare… but this wasn’t an accident. Ben’s death was the result of a decision trapper John McWilliams made to set his snare traps before the legal date to do so in an area where snare traps are not permitted. In other words, that trap should never have even been there. And Ben should not have died. Period.

Ben’s death was a result of a reckless decision. Not an accident.

At the first trial in February, McWilliams asked that the trial be remanded. In March, neither McWilliams nor his attorney appeared. The next trial is scheduled for May 6 in Cochrane.

The charge as I understand it is hunting out-of-season which could cause McWilliams to lose his hunting license. But he was trapping, not hunting. Why would he not lose his trapping license for acting with such negligence? He set a snare trap in a recreational area that was still open to the public; an area where snare traps are not even permitted.

Ed and Lorna will be back in court in Cochrane on May 6 as this case again comes to trial. Members of the DAISY Foundation will be there in support because Ben’s death should not just quietly go away. McWilliams needs to be held responsible for his alleged actions to the fullest extent possible. By his actions, he took Ben away from Lorna and Ed. By not following trapping regulations, he put other animals, pets and people at risk.

The maximum penalty is a fine of $100,000 and/or a 2 year jail sentence.

TRIAL: May 6, 2010 | Alberta Provincial Court in Cochrane | $300 fine for killing Ben


Read Lorna’s account | No justice for Ben | Calgary Sun story | Global Edmonton story


The Story of Ben

The Story of Ben

TRIAL: May 6, 2010 | 9:30 AM | Alberta Provincial Court in Cochrane | We’ll be there!

Here’s the email we received last week about Ben — Lorna and Ed’s Malamute tragically killed in an out-of-season snare.

We have been going up on the Powderface Trail to Canyon Creek for over four years to run our dogs. Until last year we had two big Alaskan Malamutes, Ben and Keesha and one SPCA special Sarah. Sarah is part cocker spaniel and part border collie, so she has long soft fur.

On November 29th, 2010 my husband and I decided to take Ben and Sarah up for the last run of the year as the Powderface Trail is closed on December 1st for the winter. We left home before noon, putting their coats on; as it is hunting season and we didn’t want Ben to be mistaken for a wolf. Ben has always been very obedient, and they come when called or to a small whistle that I have. He just loves to be able to run free, in and out of the trees. Ed has asthma and so waited in the truck while I walked with the dogs down the valley to the east of the trail.The snow was quite deep that day, and little Sarah was having problems in the snow. Ben had run about 15 yards ahead of me, but I wasn’t worried. I bent down to break the snowballs out of Sarah’s feet, and when I looked up Ben was gone. He just vanished without a sound. I called and called, and walked down the valley a bit more, but still no sign of him. As it was getting dark, we decided to go home and come back the next morning. Ben is an outside dog.

When we got home, I talked to my daughter, and she made up some “Lost” posters and I printed out a bunch to take back up to the area and post on any signboards we came to. We were up at 5:00 A.M. and started to put up our posters everywhere we could. We also talked to a lot of people including some hunters with the idea that the more people that were looking for Ben, the better it would be.

It was about noon by the time we got back to Canyon Creek, and I looked for Ben’s tracks to see which direction he had taken. It wasn’t far from where I last saw him that I found his lifeless body in the trees with a wire snare around his neck. I couldn’t get it off, so had to call Ed to help. Ed couldn’t get it off either, and ended up cutting the cable to get him free. In the same area was another trap, a big wooden box with a large Conabear trap in it and a huge chunk of raw meat. The trap was set about one foot off of the ground, and if a dog or a child had reached in, they would have been caught. The jaws of the Conabear are about 12 inches square, and have two strong springs. Trappers use a rope or clip to set them, as they can be caught in them themselves.

With great difficulty, Ed and I loaded Ben’s 120 pound body into the back of our truck. We headed back to the Ranger Station on the Elbow side and met up with a Conservation Officer, Bill O’Conner. He tried to get the snare wire off of Ben’s neck, but it took him ¾ of an hour trying various tools before he was able to free Ben.

Bill asked us to take him back to where Ben had been caught. He walked in and said it was 300 meters off of the trail. He also asked us if we had taken a quad in there, as there were fresh tracks in the area. We said no, and he left to go back to the Elbow side; and we went north towards the Transcanada Highway.

We continued about a mile or so, and came upon a truck with a quad in the back with fresh snow in the cleats. As we sat there, a man came out of the trees carrying some tools. We asked him if he had been the one who went down the Canyon Creek Valley. He was definitely on the defensive and said yes he was. So Ed told him that he had killed our dog. He went and looked in the back of the truck and said,”oh, sorry”, but I had the feeling he didn’t mean it. We asked his name and I took his license number. His name is John McWilliams. He was very arrogant to us, and so we just left.

When we got back to Calgary, we went over to our vets. and we left Ben’s body there to be cremated. The total bill was $275.00.

Bill O’Conner told us to call the R.C.M.P. in Cochrane, but to wait a few days as they were busy. Ed and I were absolutely devastated by this time. We felt that this was a wrong thing to be happening in a populated recreational area. I can’t remember why, but for some reason we were up on Barlow Trail N.E. and happened to see the Global signs. We went in and talked to a lady there, and she said she would talk to her boss.

They gave us a call, and we went out to the Elbow Falls area on Sunday December 5th and did an interview with the crew from Global news. We just wanted to get the word out, so that no one else would have to go through the heartache that we were experiencing.

Ben wasn’t just a dog. He was a member of our family. He slept outside most nights, but always came in to socialize and have his breakfast. He spent as long as he could stand in the house, as he had such a heavy coat. Ed kept looking out the kitchen window for Ben, as he was so cheeky, and would bark at us through the window.

The Calgary Sun phoned us, and wanted to do an article. A photographer came up to the house and took pictures. They were on the front page of the Sun on December 6th. Also a follow-up article on Dec. 7th.

Our son, Ted, picked up Ben from the City Pound. His boss’ daughter worked there, and Ben had been in the pound 3 weeks, and he hadn’t been adopted. Ted was so happy, and spent a lot of time with Ben, training him and taking him out in the mountains. We had another Malamute at the time, Keesha, and the three dogs ran alongside the truck or the quad. Ben gradually developed a special personality. He became very affectionate and was no trouble if you don’t count the holes in my front lawn!

After the story appeared in the Calgary Sun and on Global T.V. we had lots of people come up to us expressing their sympathy. We were in contact with the Cochrane fish & Wildlife officer named Rob Dipalo. He told us that Mr. McWilliams was charged with hunting out of season. We do not approve of that, as if convicted he would lose his hunting license. We felt he should be charged with what he did wrong, trapping out of season, and he should lose his trapping license. According to Mr. Dipalo Mr. McWilliams has a trapping license, and was allowed to trap after October 1st, but he could not put out snares until after December 1st. If he had obeyed the rules, we would not have lost our pet. Also we do not think it is right that they are allowing trapping in an area where people take their children and pets.

John McWilliams goes on trial for the killing of Ben on May 6 in Cochrane.

TRIAL: May 6, 2010 | 9:30 AM | Alberta Provincial Court in Cochrane | We’ll be there!


Blog post | Calgary Sun story | Global Edmonton


Man charged in connection to family dog’s death

Man charged in connection to family dog’s death

Ben in 2010


CALGARY – Charges have been laid in connection with the death of a dog in Kananaskis Country.

On November 29th, Ed and Lorna Thomas took their dog Ben for a walk near Elbow Falls.

Ben went missing and the couple searched for hours, eventually admitting defeat. The next day, Lorna found him caught in hunters snare trap. He died as a result.

A man has been charged with hunting wildlife during a closed season in relation to the event.

The maximum penalty is a fine of $100,000 and/or a 2 year jail sentence.

The man’s name is not being released.


reprinted from Global Edmonton


Calgary couple’s dog killed in hunters trap in Kananaskis Country

Calgary couple’s dog killed in hunters trap in Kananaskis Country

Global News: Monday, December 6, 2010

Ben


CALGARY – A Calgary couple is warning other dog owners to be careful when bringing their pooches into Kananaskis Country.

For the past three years, Lorna and Ed Thomas have been walking in the woods near Elbow Falls with their Alaskan malamute Ben in tow. However, they’re trio is now one short after what was supposed to be a relaxing day spent in the country.

“The Powderface is going to close at the end of the month, so this would be the last chance we would have to take Ben up there,” says Ed.

On November 29th, the pair headed out to Canyon Creek for a walk. Lorna says they hadn’t ventured far when suddenly Ben was nowhere to be found. After searching for him for some time, Lorna and Ed gave up and went home.

The next day, Lorna returned to the area and followed Ben’s tracks. She found him only 15 metres from where he was last seen.

“He was strangled in a steel cable and my husband couldn’t even cut it,” says Lorna. “It took the ranger three quarters of an hour to get that cable off him. I mean, it was really traumatic for us and I don’t want anybody else to go through that again.”

Fish and Wildlife officers have confirmed that they are investigating the incident but can’t comment if snaring was actually allowed in the area at the time.

Lorna and Ed say they feel like they’ve lost a key member of their family and wonder why the trapper had waited until December 1st, when the road to Canyon Creek closes to the public.

“There was no information to us that there were any traps or anything like that in the area,” says Lorna.

Outdoor enthusiasts near Elbow Falls agree that trapping too close to trails is cause for concern, not only for animals, but for families and small children.

Conservation officials say that while you must have your dog on a leash in recreational areas in provincial parks, in forestry areas such as Canyon Creek, there are no regulations.

TRIAL: May 6, 2010 | 9:30 AM | Alberta Provincial Court in Cochrane | We’ll be there!


reprinted from Global Winnipeg [and Leader Post]