Melissa Tooshley has pleaded guilty of a single charge of failing to provide the necessities of life for an animal at the Duncan courthouse on Feb. 27 in a case that has incensed animal owners.
The trial of Anderson Joe, who is up on charges of causing unnecessary pain and suffering to an animal and failing to provide the necessities of life for an animal in the same case, will continue on March 1.
Tooshley will be sentenced at a later date.
Tooshley and Joe were the owners of Teddy the dog, who died two days after the emaciated and chained animal was seized from their property in February of last year.
More than 100 people gathered at the Duncan courthouse on Wednesday with many bearing signs demanding that Teddy be remembered and those responsible for his death receive the maximum penalties allowed.
If convicted, Joe could face a maximum penalty of up to five years in prison, a $10,000 fine and up to a lifetime ban on owning animals.
In one of the most profoundly shocking and disturbing cases of abuse the BC SPCA has ever witnessed, special constables seized Teddy in critical distress on Feb. 16, 2018.
The crowd at the courthouse was so large that many couldn’t fit in the court room when the proceedings began.
Matt Affleck, the BCSPCA special constable who removed Teddy from the property, described his observations at the trial.
“I could see the dog was very underweight. His spine, ribs and hips were clearly visible,” Affleck told the court.
“He was hunched over, and his head looked very large.”
Affleck said he knocked on the front door of the residence and when no one answered, he returned to the dog along with his co-worker from the SPCA.
“I went down to where the dog was and from 15 or 20 feet I could smell rot and infection. His condition was very poor, he was unable to move.”
There was an open wound on his neck and Affleck testified a tight collar was touching the gash.
Affleck said the area around where the dog was tied was wet, mushy and covered with urine and feces.
“He didn’t seem to be able to lift his head and he was critical. I thought he could die at any time,” he said.
“We determined we need to remove him right away.”
Affleck and his partner used bolt cutters to release Teddy and loaded him into a crate and headed to Duncan Animal Hospital.
At times during Affleck’s testimony, members of the gallery, many wearing Justice for Teddy T-Shirts, began to weep.
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The case sparked a wave of protests by animal rights groups, and numerous rallies calling for changes to animal rights laws have been held in the Valley since the death of Teddy.
Cobble Hill’s Kathy Rezansoff, who was at the courthouse, said she’s not a vindictive person, but feels that something must be done to prevent such animal abuse in the future.
“I don’t think these two people should get away with this without bearing responsibility for their actions,” she said.
“This should not be allowed to happen to any animal ever again.”
United for a Paws was formed in the wake of Teddy’s death and founders Brittany Pickard and Christi Wright and a number of the group’s members were at the courthouse on Wednesday.
Pickard was adamant that Joe and Tooshley should face the maximum penalties allowed.
“It’s not okay to treat animals this way and we need stricter laws to deal with it,” she said.
“Precedents need to be set. People who abuse animals this way should be punished severely.”
Wright said people came from all over the Island and beyond to attend the trial and have their voices heard.
“We also have had 215,000 people sign our petition on this issue from all over the world, so there’s a lot of support out there for this cause,” she said.