Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Animal-cruelty story causes loss of perspective

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Reporters crammed into a Vancouver courtroom Tuesday to learn about how Brian Whitlock, 26, left his emaciated victim in a Dumpster, wrapped in a blood-soaked blanket from the wounds suffered from being stabbed multiple times and then bludgeoned with a baseball bat.

Except Whitlock's victim wasn't a human being, it was Captain, his two-year-old German shepherd. Captain died the next day and animal lovers have been demanding Whitlock's head on a platter ever since.

The Citizen published a letter to the editor last week demanding a harsh sentence for Whitlock and tougher laws against animal abuse. Another local person made a stained glass tribute to Captain and donated it to the Vancouver SPCA for use in an upcoming fundraiser.

There is a website page in Captain's name, as well as a Facebook page with 1,123 members as of Tuesday, many of whom were posting libellous comments about Whitlock and calling for physical harm and vigilante justice against him in the wake of his sentence Tuesday.

Whatever sentence Whitlock receives won't be enough for animal lovers (the Crown is seeking six months in jail), it's a reasonable sentence under the letter of the law. Under Sec. 445 of the Criminal Code, causing an animal "unnecessary pain" can mean a term in jail of no more than five years and a fine not more than $10,000.

It's a depressing exercise to contrast the outrage over Captain's horrible death last summer and the sentencing of his owner Tuesday with the lack of outrage over worse crimes committed against human beings in our immediate vicinity.

Where was the outrage when Lloyd Cook was found not guilty of manslaughter and criminal negligence but convicted of unlawful confinement and interference this past February in the death of his stepson Adam Scott Williams-Dudoward? The young boy died under mysterious circumstances after he was tied with electrical extension cords. His body was wrapped in a blanket and placed in the trunk of a car, where it stayed for as long as a month, before it was buried along the Nechako River, eight kilometres past the paved end of North Nechako Road.

Or how about the home invasion late last year in Prince George where one of the occupants was a quadriplegic man who had bear spray used on his face but was unable to wipe his nose and eyes because of his physical state?

Meanwhile, there was a huge outcry in Prince George during March of 2003, when a young German shepherd was found in the Giscome area after being shot in the face at close range. The dog survived the injury and the surgery to repair its nasal passages.

This is not to say we should not be upset about animal cruelty or that we should dismiss or ignore it. It should, however, be put in the context of similar acts of cruelty against other human beings.

Grief and anger over the beating death of a dog in Vancouver are the correct responses to such news but those emotions should be tempered.

We should all love our dogs and we should do our best to punish those who would harm animals unnecessarily. In our outrage, however, we should not lose sight of the needless suffering being inflicted on our two-legged friends that are of the same species as we are.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 6, 2013 A15

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