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Health Law - Public health - Animals

Thursday, September 15, 2016 @ 8:00 PM  

Motion by Szalas to quash an appeal by Chirico, Medical Health Officer for the North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit, from the dismissal of Chirico’s motion for a contempt finding against Szalas. Szalas owned a dog that bit people on four occasions. Chirico ordered him to relinquish the dog to the Humane Society to be euthanized. Szalas appealed from the order and, on conditions which included having the dog leashed and muzzled, obtained the return of the dog to him pending his appeal. Szalas was alleged to have breached the more serious of the conditions designed to keep the public safe from the dog pending the appeal, and was required to turn the dog over to the Humane Society. Szalas refused. A further order was issued with a deadline for Szalas to turn over the dog, failing which would result in the dismissal of Szalas’ appeal. Szalas failed to comply with the deadline and his appeal from the euthanasia order was dismissed. Szalas refused to relinquish the dog to an SPCA member who attended his residence to retrieve it. Chirico moved for a finding the Szalas was in contempt of the euthanasia order. The judge held that while Szalas deliberately sent his dog to the United States to avoid complying with the order, he did not fail to comply with the order to turn over the dog to the Humane Society, as it was the SPCA that attended to pick up the dog. Chirico argued on appeal that the judge erred in taking a formalistic approach to the issue of whether Szalas complied with the terms of the euthanasia order.

HELD: Motion dismissed. Chirico’s appeal was allowed, Szalas was found in contempt of the euthanasia order, and the matter was referred back to the Superior Court to provide Szalas with an opportunity to purge his contempt and for the appropriate sanction to be determined. Because there were no other ongoing proceedings between the parties, the order under appeal was final, such that the appeal court had jurisdiction to hear Chirico’s appeal. The motion judge erred in failing to appreciate that a contempt finding was available where Szalas failed to follow the spirit of the order. By not giving up possession of the dog to be euthanized, Szalas failed to follow the spirit of the order. Szalas’ conduct throughout, including secreting the dog to the United States and then relying on a technicality to avoid being held to account, displayed an utter disregard for the intent of the euthanasia order. He demonstrated blatant contempt for the administration of justice by ignoring repeated orders and demands to surrender the dog.