Man exonerated in dog abuse case

Death of family pet led to animal cruelty charges in the Comox Valley

Charges of animal cruelty have been dropped in a case involving a Comox Valley man and his family shih tzu stemming from an incident last summer.

Lee Wood says the incident “was a total accident” and that growing up with a veterinarian father and being around animals all his life, he would never hurt intentionally hurt an animal.

Last August in Cumberland, Wood was charged under the Criminal Code of Canada after allegedly hitting the dog – a black female shih tzu named Treasure – with such force that the dog had to be euthanized because of the severity of her injuries.

Treasure was owned by Wood’s mother, Barbara Sargent, who witnessed the incident.

Sargent says she feels the incident was her fault, as three dogs were fighting in their kennel and the fourth – Treasure – was outside of the cage last June at night in their darkened basement suite.

She notes she left Treasure outside because her and another dog were “fighting like two wolves” and thought it would be best to leave Treasure out.

“All of a sudden, they were fighting again, and I wasn’t thinking, and I said ‘Lee, can you stop them from fighting?’ ”

Wood, who is blind in his left eye, jumped up and “in a matter of panic” grabbed his shoes with his right hand and banged on what he thought was the kennel three times to get the dogs to stop.

“I looked down, and said ‘oh my god, I think I just killed your dog.’ ”

Her voice shaking, Sargent says she wrapped Treasure in her best rose quilt, and they rushed the dog to Van Isle Veterinary Hospital in Courtenay, where she was eventually put down.

She adds she is not angry at her son for what he did.

“How can I be mad at him when I begged him to stop them (from fighting)? We don’t hit our dogs. They’re family – it’s been really, really hard. I want people to know that Lee is not guilty; I was never angry at him, but more angry at myself. It’s a tragic accident.”

Growing up around animals, Sargent explains the family owned a ranch where they cared for show horses. She always trusted Wood with animals, particularly her four dogs, whom he watched over when she was away, and added they were always cared for and well-fed.

She notes since the charges were laid, many people have presumed her son is guilty, and the family has been taunted on social media.

“People have threatened to beat (Lee) up. It’s a hard time. It’s been a really, really hard time.”

The family credits their lawyer Robert Yeo, who confirmed the charges were dropped, but would not comment further on the case.

Calls to the Crown counsel office by The Record were not returned.

 

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