[nagdu] Canada: Judge forces dog fight to proceed
GingerKutsch at yahoo.com
Wed Jan 29 12:57:02 UTC 2014
Canada: Judge forces dog fight to proceed
By Greg Mercer
KITCHENER - A Waterloo woman fighting a long legal battle with a local
charity that trains service dogs was forced to be her own lawyer Tuesday -
the latest twist in an unusual custody fight over a young golden retriever
Tammy Hall has been trying to block the National Service Dog Training Centre
from getting its dog back since April of 2012. As a volunteer puppy raiser,
it was her job to care for the animal until it was ready to be trained as a
service dog for people with special needs.
But that arrangement fell apart when Hall "fell in love with the dog,"
according to the charity's lawyer Glen Carey. She refused to give the animal
back, and began claiming only she could care properly for the puppy, the
On Tuesday, Hall found herself in an unexpected situation in court - acting
in her own defence after her latest lawyer, her third since the fight began,
quit the case suddenly.
Hall had hoped for an adjournment so she could find another lawyer. Instead,
a visibly frustrated deputy judge James Marentette forced the trial to
proceed, saying there have been enough delays already.
The judge's irritation with Hall's inexperience with court proceedings was
soon evident, as she fumbled through boxes of documents trying to find
records being admitted into evidence.
"How are we going to get through this if it takes us 15 minutes to find and
certify every document?" Marentette scolded. "I want you to act like a
Carey argued Hall was deliberately stalling the case, through lawyer changes
and filing last-minute documents and what he claimed was an attempt to seek
"The clock is ticking. . She's delaying because she doesn't like the answer
on who owns the dog," he said.
Gabby, who is almost three years old, is now likely too old to be trained as
a service dog for someone with autism or post-traumatic stress disorder, the
charity's executive Danielle Forbes testified.
But Gabby could still become a successful therapy dog or a companion dog,
used with patients who have Alzheimer's or a terminal illness, she said.
Still, all that is beside the point, the charity's lawyer argued.
The National Service Dog agency relies on hundreds of volunteers to care for
its dogs until they're ready to be trained - and that system can't be
allowed to fall apart just because people grow attached to the puppies,
The charity, which pioneered a training program that fits service dogs with
children with autism, typically takes the dogs back between 12 and 18 months
old and begins their training regimen. The volunteers get dog food provided
to them and have their vet bills covered by the charity.
"Puppy raisers can't be allowed to hang onto the animals. There's a greater
public good at work here for the charity," Carey said. "This case is about
who owns this dog. That's it. Everything else is smoke and mirrors."
Hall signed a volunteer's contract with the agency in July 2011, and began
caring for Gabby. When the National Service Dog Training Centre asked for
the dog back the next spring, the charity says she refused and stopped
bringing it to puppy classes.
Hall's defence is that the dog's health makes it unsuitable as a service
dog, and that she's concerned the animal's well-being would suffer if she
were to return it to its owner. She claims the dog suffers from anxiety, car
sickness and incontinence.
She's worried about Gabby's future if it's returned to the non-profit.
The charity "discards dogs who do not qualify as service dogs as bad debts
without future care considerations," she alleged, in her statement of
After the charity's director showed up on her doorstep with a police escort
in April 2012, the legal fight started to force her to hand the dog over.
The Cambridge non-profit took her to Small Claims Court, accusing her of
creating "artificial issues" around the dog's health, and breaking the
contract she signed when she joined as a volunteer.
Judge Marentette said the contract that Hall signed appears to be clear, and
isn't "subject to amendments by the puppy raiser." The issue of who owns the
dog doesn't seem to be in dispute, he said.
The charity, meanwhile, has concerns about the dog's health and has been
refused access to the animal, Carey said. He suggested the medication Hall
is providing Gabby may be making her worse.
"Is this dog being cared for? We don't know," he said.
The lawyer said no one but Hall should be blamed for the compromising
situation she found herself in Tuesday.
"The consequences should be placed where they belong," Carey said, pointing
a finger at Hall.
The trial resumes Wednesday.
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