Verdict on three counts in 10 days
A man accused of beating his dog and uttering threats to the people who allegedly witnessed it testified in his own defence Thursday and received a not-guilty verdict on one of four charges.
Judge Ted Gouge said he would take at least 10 days to render his verdict on the other three charges and deliver them via video.
Brandon Scott Harrison, 26, of Duncan, is charged with uttering threats to cause death or bodily harm, causing uneccessary pain and suffering to an animal, and causing an animal to continue to be in distress. He was acquitted of the criminal-harassment charge.
In Thursday’s testimony, the judge heard very different versions of an incident that was alleged to have occurred on April 21, 2013.
Earlier in the trial, husband and wife Chris and Leigh Davies testified they saw Harrison pin Rufus, a French bulldog, by the neck on the road and then punch the dog three times in the head, before throwing the dog into the ditch.
The Davies allege heated words were exchanged, including what Chris said was a nasty threat made by the man to his wife when she said she was going to call 911.
“He said, “I’ll f---ing kill you if you dial 911,’” Davies recalled in a previous article.
In Thursday’s testimony, an SPCA officer, another eye witness and Harrison himself were called to the stand. During a break, a court sheriff warned the 10 plus people watching the trial that Harrison was innocent until proven guilty and that negative and nasty comments shouldn’t be made to him or his lawyer until a verdict was delivered.
“Not even then,” said Crown counsel Peter Benning.
On Thursday, Victoria resident Shelby Harding, 21, said her and her dad, Robert, were driving along Cowichan Lake Road when they stopped their car after seeing Rufus on the side of the road.
She testified Harrison grabbed the dog, and punched it in the face twice before throwing it onto the ground.
Harding, who claimed she was 18 to 20 feet away, testified Harrison told the Davies to mind their own “f---king business,” and after being told they were going to call the police said, ‘Go ahead.”
Defense lawyer Seth A. Cooper questioned her sight line and recollection, which she gave to police five months after the incident, on Sept. 27, 2013.
“If you had such a great view, why did you first tell the police that the man who did it had yellow hair?” he asked.
“Yes, at first I said it was yellow and then at the end (of the interview) told them (the police) that it was brown,” Harding said.
She identified Harrison in the courtroom.
Cooper also questioned why Harding waited so long before giving her statement.
“I’m going to suggest you said it was Brandon Harrison because you read stories about it on Facebook,” Cooper said.
“I don’t think so,” Harding replied.
On their business Facebook page, Mid Island Ink Depot, the Davies have kept Cowichanians updated on the case.
Cooper, in his summation said, they “assembled their own modern day social media mob.”
Later Thursday morning, the SPCA’s Matt Affleck, testified that within one hour to 90 minutes of the alleged incident, the police arrived on the scene to examine the dog. He said the attending officer noted the dog didn’t limp, or appear in distress.
Affleck said he went to Harrison’s property on Aug. 23 and when no one was home, left a note on the gate, asking Harrison to call. On April 24 or 25, after leaving another note, he got a call from Harrison, who said he was in Grande Prairie, with the dog.
Once Harrison was home on April 27, Affleck got a chance to examine the dog, who he said was a “friendly, excited, happy dog.”
Crown counsel Benning noted that no one really has any idea how long a bruise or abrasion might last, and that the fact that a dog didn’t act afraid didn’t mean that it wasn’t being abused.
Harrison testified that 25-pound Rufus is extremely well behaved and that his running away was unusual.
After running for about a kilometre to catch Rufus and seeing three or four cars “whiz by,” at about 60 kilometres per hour, Harrison testified he reached down with his left hand and picked the dog up by the scruff of the neck and then “slapped him hard on the rear,” before dropping him.
“I had to smack him or he’d do it again,” the accused said.
Harrison said he didn’t threat the Davies, but when they said they were going to call the police, said, “Go ahead you f--king rat goof.”
Benning questioned Harrison as to why he didn’t give Rufus a time out on April 21, the mode of training he’d used before, suggesting the defendant was mad and his anger got the better of him.
“I’m going to suggest you were angry and you lost control and hit your dog with a closed fist,” Benning said. “You’re telling us that you never threatened the Davies, that you wouldn’t do something like that?”
“No, I wouldn’t,” Harrison said.
In his summation, Cooper said the case was of a loving dog owner, teaching and disciplining his dog. He added the problem with Harding’s testimony is that she didn’t get a good look, and that she originally thought that Harrison had blond hair.
“Chris Davies said he used a full force swing, given Brandon Harrison’s weight (he’s 220 pounds), if he’d done that we’d be talking about a dead dog,” the defense lawyer said. “There’s no doubt the Davies saw him discipline his dog, they posted it on Facebook, they exaggerated the story, and tried to name him and shame him. The Davies found the story a big draw, their cause became political, using their exaggerated story as their platform.”
It’s a high profile trial. More than 27,000 signatures were signed and presented to Crown, seeking justice for Terry — the Davies’ nickname for the dog — supporting the maximum sentence for Harrison. Chris Davies said as a result of the incident he’s rewritten and made draft amendments to the animal cruelty section of the Criminal Code and they’re being reviewed by legal staff in Ottawa.
In summing up, Benning emphasized all three Crown witnesses testified that Harrison was enraged, “he was a very angry man. All three were taken aback by the violence of his response.”
“What’s consistent is all three witnesses saw him hit his dog with a closed fist, hard.”
“It’s human impulse to reconstruct events; I’m not suggesting that he lied, but given the opportunity he’d act differently today than the day of the event. My submission is that Mr. Harrison’s evidence it not believable, it doesn’t leave reasonable doubt.”
As for Rufus, who the trial is all about?
Marcie Moriarty, of the BCSPCA said the organization doesn’t have the dog, because there wasn’t sufficient evidence to seize it. Benning said he didn’t know where the dog was and Cooper didn’t reply to an email asking who’s looking after Rufus.