Cowichan dog abuse verdict ready in 10 days: judge

Judge Ted Gouge said he’s taken careful notes of everything but will now need at least 10 days to bring down his decision on an incident in which witnesses are claiming a man abused a dog on Cowichan Lake Road in April 2013.

Dog owner Brandon Scott Harrison is charged with criminal harassment, causing unnecessary pain and suffering to an animal, causing an animal to continue to be in distress and uttering threats to cause death or bodily harm.

The trial has taken a while to get to this stage because witness Shelby Harding had been unavailable but she took the stand Thursday along with SPCA special constable Matt Affleck and everything wrapped up with the lawyers’ final submissions to the judge Thursday afternoon in Duncan Provincial Court.

Defence lawyer Seth Cooper then called the accused and carefully presented Harrison’s own recollections of the case before making his own comments, noting discrepancies in the testimony.

Harrison, at 6 feet 1 inch and over 200 pounds is a big man now but he’s lost weight recently and would have been even bigger at the time of the incident, his lawyer said.

If he had actually performed some of the actions described by some witnesses, "we’d be taking about a dead dog," Cooper said.

He also pointed out that witnesses Chris and Leigh Davies "took their disdain [for Harrison] to social media, to Facebook. They wanted to name and shame Mr. Harrison. They gathered a modern-day social media mob."

No one is denying that witnesses saw Harrison disciplining his French poodle, Rufus, for running out onto the road to chase a car, "but the problem is the story does not add up," Cooper said.

Crown counsel Peter Benning centered his closing arguments on a few key points, dismissing the differences in witness testimony and focusing on their similarities.

"What is a consistent thread is that when they first saw Mr. Harrison he was very angry," Benning argued.

"They were shocked, taken aback at his actions, particularly that Mr. Harrison struck his dog with a closed fist. He actually punched the dog."

Then there was his throwing it on the ground.

"Miss Harding said it was like throwing a basketball. He didn’t deposit the dog on the ground. He acted in a violent and uncalled-for manner. That’s what struck these witnesses."

On top of that, Benning said, Harrison admits he has not struck Rufus since.

"He knows it is inappropriate. Mr. Harrison is probably ashamed of what he did and has seen the publicity, the effect of this case. He would not act this way again."

However, striking a dog like that is still "cruelty and abuse," Benning continued.

Judge Gouge will offer his judgment by video as he will not be actually needed in person.

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