Stiff penalties in dog mauling case

For Wanda Webster, who in September lost her dog Hershey to a vicious attack by two pit bulls, justice was done

The owner of two pit bull dogs who in September 2014 fatally mauled Hershey

The owner of two pit bull dogs who in September 2014 fatally mauled Hershey

For Wanda Webster, who in September lost her dog Hershey to a vicious attack by two pit bulls, justice was done in the Stettler courthouse on Thursday, March 26.

There, Judge B.D. Rosborough fined the owner of the two pit bulls, Cody Zimmer, $3,160. Zimmer was in court to answer to the County of Stettler’s animal control bylaw violations.

Zimmer was charged under the County of Stettler’s animal control bylaw, per dog, for having an animal loose and an animal loose that attacked or injured a person or animal, for a total of four charges.

Lawyer Nancy Bergstrom represented the county in the matter. She advised the court that on Sept. 15, 2014, Webster observed the two pit bulls, a male and a female, loose on the road near her residence.

Upon arriving home, she found her eight-year-old chocolate lab, mauled in her yard. Though Hershey was alive when found by Webster, who immediately phoned for a veterinarian, the beloved family pet died before the veterinarian arrived.

According to Bergstrom, Hershey had suffered a vicious mauling, with deep bites and cuts to many parts of his body. However, it was a deep and gaping chest wound that killed the dog.

According to Webster, one of the loose pit bulls was so aggressive when she arrived home that it harried her, leaving her stuck in her vehicle.

The accused was in the courtroom and pleaded guilty, reading through Webster’s long impact statement.

“We’re both deeply sorry for what happened to (Webster’s) dog,” Zimmer told the court. “We’re very sorry.”

For each of the two animals at large charges, Rosborough fined Zimmer $80, and agreed that the recommendation of $1,500 per injury charged asked for by Bergstrom and the county was reasonable. Thus, the total fines levied against Zimmer were $3,160. The court allowed Zimmer a year to pay the fines.

The court also heard that the female dog was voluntarily euthanized by the owners.

Last October, Webster appeared before county councillors and pleaded with them to improve the county’s animal control bylaw.

She expressed her concern that it could have been children, not her dog, that was killed by the dogs.

Now that the case is over, the county can begin to examine the bylaw, Niki Thorsteinsson, director of communications of the county, said.

“We couldn’t do anything while the issue was before the courts, but now we can start,” she said.

The lawyer who represented the county at court, Bergstrom, is experienced in animal control bylaws and will be reviewing the bylaw and offering her recommendations to council.

Also in court:

Judge Rosborough denied a request from defence lawyer Kevin Sproule that Mackenzie Wyatt be granted a conditional discharge in an assault case.

Wyatt pleaded guilty to the charge, stemming from an incident on Dec. 6, 2014, in Alberta Provincial Court on Thursday, March 26.

Crown Attorney J.D. Petty told the court that on that night, police responded to a complaint from Stettler Hospital regarding the injuries on an individual who had been admitted.

Police learned that the victim and friends had been in the parking lot area near the Canalta Hotel when Wyatt came up behind them, pushing the victim on the slippery surface.

The individual fell and broke her ankle. Police noted that during this time, Wyatt remained and continued to verbally harangue the group of people, and that he was very intoxicated.

Noting that Wyatt had no criminal record, and his pre-sentencing report characterized him in a relatively positive fashion, the Crown asked for a suspended sentence and an 18-month probation.

Sproule, representing Wyatt, agreed that the report was mostly complimentary of his client, explaining that the evening was “a good kid who did a bad thing while under the influence of alcohol.”

The pre-sentencing report stated that Wyatt took full responsibility for his actions, was apologetic and remorseful, and that the incident was out of character for the young man.

Sproule noted that, as it was the first offence and not a pattern of behaviour on Wyatt’s part, that allowing a conditional discharge would be good not only for his client, who after three years wouldn’t have a criminal record, but also for the community. He said that a criminal record would greatly impact Wyatt and may cause difficulties in him obtaining employment, which would then place him as a burden on the community.

Judge Rosborough disagreed, however, noting that while the pre-sentencing report said many good things about Wyatt, it also noted that alcohol and drug use are a problem.

When weighing the good of the community against the good of the individual, Rosborough said that alcohol-driven violence is a large problem and one that couldn’t be ignored.

For his part, Wyatt apologized to the court, and said, “I never want to be here again.”