Former dog walker Emma Paulsen should spend six to 12 months behind bars after she allowed six dogs to die in the back of her truck, Crown counsel suggested at her Wednesday sentencing hearing.
Crown counsel Jim MacAulay also asked Surrey Provincial Court Judge James Jardine to impose a fine of $5,000 to $10,000, a 10-year ban on owning any animals, and a lifetime ban on ever caring for anyone elseâ€™s animals, as a paid worker or not.
Paulsen has pleaded guilty to two charges, one of public mischief, for making a false police report that the dogs had been stolen, and causing an animal to continue to be in distress, under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. MacAulay suggested three to six months in jail for each charge.
MacAuley laid out the facts of the case, while several of the owners of the dead dogs watched from the gallery, sometimes in tears.
On May 13, Paulsen claimed she had driven the dogs from Delta to Langley to let them play at the dog park in Brookswood on 44th Avenue.
She would later tell police, reporters, and privately hired pet investigators that she had gone to the washroom for 10 to 15 minutes, and when she returned, the back canopy of her pickup was open and the dogs were missing.
She admitted less than a week later that the entire tale was a fabrication.
On May 19, after already being confronted by the suspicious owner of Petsearchers Canada, she confessed again to two officers from the Langley RCMP.
The RCMP had become suspicious of her story after failing to find anyone who had seen Paulsen and the dogs at the park earlier in the day.
Paulsen had in fact picked up five large dogs, and along with her own, had put them in the back of the truck and apparently gone shopping for about 45 minutes, she later told investigators.
When she returned, the dogs were dead. She panicked, drove out to Abbotsford, and looked for somewhere to dispose of them. She dumped them all in a ditch, without covering them.
â€œI was just trying to be fast, I guess so I didnâ€™t get caught,â€ Paulsen said in her statement to police.
Meanwhile, she was already calling her clients, police, and Langley Animal Protection Society with the story about the dogs being stolen.
In the days following her false report, Paulsen even reported sightings of her own dog and told at least one other owner she had received a tip about that pet.
â€œMs. Paulsen left hope where there was no hope,â€ said MacAulay.
It was not the first time Paulsen had left dogs in her care unattended in the back of a truck, MacAulay revealed.
Paulsen owned a horse, boarding it at a Delta barn, MacAulay said. On many occasions, she visited the barn with dogs either in crates in an open pickup, or later in the back of her second, canopied pickup truck.
She would leave the dogs while she rode her horse and performed work in her stall in the barn for up to two hours.
She had also been seen at the barn intoxicated or with alcohol on her breath, MacAulay said.
Other people working at the barn had repeatedly asked her about the dogs or told her she should not leave the dogs there, MacAulay said.
Necropsies of the six dead dogs showed that four of them had eaten part of the bedding in the back of the truck, likely during frantic attempts to escape, or to deal with nausea caused by overheating. The temperature outside was between 18 and 19 degrees Celsius that afternoon.
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â€œMs. Paulsen was warned numerous times not to do what she did,â€ MacAulay said. â€œIn addition, sheâ€™s a professional, sheâ€™s been hired to look after the animals.â€
â€œHer actions demonstrate extreme recklessness,â€ MacAulay said.
He suggested that jail time would send a message of deterence out to others who might also negligently leave animals in vehicles.
â€œAll we have to do is think, â€˜Donâ€™t leave your animal in a car,â€™â€ said MacAulay.
Paulsen sat through the morningâ€™s proceedings slightly hunched forward, occasionally dabbing at her face with a tissue.
Outside the courthouse, Amber Williams, the owner of Mia, one of the dogs, said she does hope that Paulsen receives the six to 12 month sentence.
It was upsetting, but she said she was glad to hear more details about the circumstances of the case.
â€œWe still have not heard an apology from her yet,â€ Williams said.
Paulsenâ€™s lawyer is asking for a conditional sentence that would be served in the community, adding that the strong public attention the case has received has been a form of punishment.
He said that a conditional sentence with strict terms would also send a strong message to the public.
However, he also asked the judge to consider an intermittent sentence if he is going to sentence her to any jail time. Intermittent sentences allow a person to serve their sentence on weekends or on their days off.
The defense told the court Paulsen was in a very bad emotional state and abusing alcohol at the time but had not been drinking that day.
â€œPeople donâ€™t do this lightly, they usually do it in an emotional state,â€ he said.
Saying the case is a complex one, Judge Jardine reserved judgement until next Wednesday, Jan. 28.
– Jessica Kerr is a reporter with the Delta Optimist.