A Tagish, Yukon, kennel owner was back in court on Monday, arguing for a stay on an order to get rid of her dozens of dogs.
Last October, Yukon Supreme Court Justice Leigh Gower granted an injunction forcing Shelley Cuthbert to adopt out, or surrender, more than fifty dogs that she has been keeping on her rural property.
Gower found the dogs’ barking caused substantial and unreasonable interference on neighbours’ lives.
He gave Cuthbert four months to find new homes for most of the dogs on her property. Starting Feb. 11, she would only be allowed to keep two dogs on the property.
Cuthbert filed an appeal in early November, and that’s expected to be heard in May. In the meantime, she’s asking to keep all the dogs until the appeal is heard.
Cuthbert represented herself in the Yukon Court of Appeal on Monday. She says she has a friend who is helping her file court documents.
She argues that Gower did not adequately explain the proceedings against her, and that he did not adequately balance her interest with her neighbours. She came close to tears on Monday as she explained that if the court order is not stayed, her dogs would have to be euthanized.
“I am still very confused about this entire process,” said Cuthbert.
She said she wasn’t given a chance to suggest remedies to fix the problem of her dogs, or knew if she even could.
B.C. Court of Appeals Justice John James Lyon Hunter, hearing the matter on Monday via videoconferencing, advised Cuthbert against representing herself in court.
“Running an appeal in the Court of Appeal is virtually impossible without a lawyer,” he said.
‘You can’t square a circle’
Lawyer Graham Lang, who represents Cuthbert’s neighbours, says the merits of Cuthbert’s appeal are weak. He says Gower presented a 46-page written decision on why he ordered the injunction last year.
“You can’t square a circle,” said Lang.
But Lang also said he is open to amend the original order with new conditions that would see Cuthbert surrender 10 dogs to the Yukon government by mid-February, and then up to 10 more animals each month until May, when she would be expected to have just ten dogs left.
Any dogs on Cuthbert’s property would also have to be kept indoors nightly from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m., allowed out only for bathroom breaks.
Cuthbert would also have to stop taking in new dogs at her kennel. Court heard Monday that she is currently still taking in animals.
Cuthbert says she still has a contract with the Carcross/Tagish First Nation to pick up stray dogs.
She also said she has seven dogs that need to be outside at night because they don’t get along with the other dogs.
Lang suggested those seven dogs could be among the first ones surrendered to the government next month.
Justice Hunter will issue a decision on Wednesday.