Man gets 26 months for killing police dog
EDMONTON - A man who killed an Edmonton police dog has been sentenced to 26 months in prison.
Paul Joseph Vukmanich has also been banned from owning a pet for 25 years.
Judge Larry Anderson told Vukmanich on Friday that he didn't just attack a dog. "It's an attack on your society and it's an attack on what's meaningful in society."
Court heard that Vukmanich was high on drugs and fleeing from police last fall when he repeatedly stabbed the dog named Quanto.
Officers had set the German shepherd loose after Vukmanich was caught driving a car with stolen plates and ran away on foot.
Vukmanich, 27, pleaded guilty earlier this week to animal cruelty and other offences, including evading police.
Crown and defence lawyers recommended a plea deal for the 26 months. While the judge said he wanted to impose more time, he decided the recommendation wasn't so out of line that he could overrule it.
He specifically said 18 months of the sentence was for the dog's death.
Crown prosecutor Christian Lim told reporters he believes that sets a precedent for animal cruelty.
The Crown had also requested Vukmanich be ordered to pay $40,000 to police to cover the cost of a new dog and its training. But the judge said the restitution matter should be handled by a civil court.
Anderson noted that the case "struck a public nerve." Police were swamped with emails and messages of sympathy after the dog died. At the time, police also complained that the toughest charge available was animal cruelty.
The federal government signalled in the speech from the throne in October that it would create new legislation to protect animals that work with police and call it Quanto's Law. The government did not specify what the law might entail.
"They deserve special protection and recognition under the law and it's our intention to do just that and bring in provisions that will recognize service animals," said federal Justice Minister Peter MacKay, who was in Calgary on Friday to give a speech.
MacKay wouldn't provide a timeline for when such legislation may be introduced.
"We're sitting in a Parliament now that is extremely busy and is seized with a lot of justice bills. I'm not trying to avoid giving you a specific answer as to when the law will be coming ... (but) we have legislation in the queue," he said.
Kim Elmslie of the Canadian Federation of Humane Socities said in a statement that Vukmanich deserved a longer sentence, adding the federation is disappointed there was no restitution order issued.
She said they support the passing of Quanto’s Law "as it recognizes the importance of police services animals and the risks they take to protect us."
The federation said the case draws attention "to the woefully outdated and inadequate animal cruelty provisions that currently exist within the Criminal Code," noting the laws have remained "largely unchanged since they were enacted in 1892 by Queen Victoria."
Quanto was the fifth Edmonton police dog to die in the line of duty.
Court heard that Vukmanich was on parole and high on cocaine and methamphetamine when police tried to pull him over on Oct. 7. He sped over a median and several curbs, blowing out three tires, before abandoning the car in a parking lot. He then took off on foot.
When he refused to stop, Quanto was deployed.
The dog bit Vukmanich on the arm and hand. Vukmanich then stabbed the animal several times in the chest.
Const. Matt Williamson carried his bleeding dog to an emergency veterinarian but he couldn't be saved.
The officer told court in his victim impact statement that although Quanto lived with his family, the dog's primary role was as his protector, a role the animal fearlessly fulfilled.
However, Williamson said, Quanto's death has had a profound effect on the officer's six-year-old daughter, who came to him crying one day with a question: "If Quanto's job was to protect you from bad guys ... is a bad guy going to kill you?"
Williamson said the little girl never lets him leave for work now without hugging him first.
Williamson is to start training a new dog and will rejoin the canine unit in the spring.