No case to answer in dog theft charge

Magistrate orders dog returned to owner

Former political candidate Sandra
Catron was found not guilty of theft Wednesday after Acting
Magistrate John Furniss ruled there was no case for her to answer.

Details of the charge against her
were that, between 4 and 16 January, 2010, she stole a black and white Shih-Tzu
dog, the property of Leianne Bush.

Ms Bush and Ms Catron live near
each other on Rackley Boulevard in the Bodden Town District.

Senior Crown Counsel Trevor Ward concluded
his presentation of evidence on Tuesday, the first day of the trial.

On Wednesday the defendant, who
represented herself, submitted there was no case for her to answer.

After the magistrate heard from
both sides, he took a brief adjournment and then announced his ruling. He said
he did not consider that a jury properly instructed would return a verdict of
guilty.

On that basis, he indicated, there
was no need for the defendant to call any evidence and the charge was
dismissed.

 He also ordered that the dog be returned to Ms
Bush, noting Ms Catron had admitted Ms Bush was the owner of the dog.

The magistrate did not mention any
costs and Ms Catron did not ask to be reimbursed for money she spent while she
had the dog.

In arguing there was no case to
answer, Ms Catron pointed to the definition of theft:  “dishonest appropriation of the property of another
with the intention of permanently depriving the other of that property.”

Through her questioning of Crown
witnesses, Ms Catron indicated she had found or rescued the dog.

Before presenting his first
witness, Mr. Ward asked for an amendment to the charge, changing the date of
the alleged offence from 30 December, 2009, to the period in January. He said
although Ms Catron might have come by the dog innocently by finding, she
appropriated the dog.

The magistrate asked if the Crown
accepted she had come into possession innocently.

Mr. Ward said that, either way, her
acts thereafter constituted a dishonest appropriation.

Those acts included taking the dog
to a veterinarian on 12 January to have it spayed and micro-chipped.

During the no-case arguments, Mr. Ward
said only an owner should be making those sorts of decisions.

In her submissions, Ms Catron cited
a section of the Animals Law concerning
stray dogs. It states:

“Any person finding a stray dog may
take possession of the same and shall, within 24 hours, report the matter to
the nearest police station, where after he may either retain the dog in his
possession or hand the dog over to the police.

“If the finder retains the dog in
his possession he shall hand the dog over to any person who can show himself to
be the owner thereof and makes claim thereto within 15 days.”

The court had heard that Ms Bush paid
US$1,500 for the dog, importing it from Jamaica in March 2008.

The court also heard from
veterinarian Brandy Darby that the dog was brought to her on 12 January to be
spayed and have a microchip implanted. She said there was an assumption that
the person bringing the dog in was the owner. For her personally, it was the
first time she had been involved in this kind of situation.

Ms Darby explained that the dog’s
medical history said it had been found/rescued two weeks earlier. Sandra
Catron’s name was on one side of the information card and the dog details were
on the other side.

Cross-examined by Ms Catron, Ms
Darby said a microchip can help reunite a lost dog with its owner. Asked if
ownership can be transferred, she said it was a matter for the company
supplying the microchip. Ms Darby explained that the chip does not contain the
name of the owner, just a number.  The
company would have a record of that number and ownership information, she
indicated.

Ms Catron asked if the veterinarian
had noticed anything particular about the dog and the magistrate asked
specifically about bad skin or ears.

The witness said she makes sure
when animals are brought for surgery that they are in stable condition and
well-hydrated. She would not check eyes, ears and/or skin unless requested to
do so.

Several police officers also gave
evidence. Among them was Inspector Ian Yearwood. He said he told Ms Catron she
should hand the dog over to the animal welfare officer, but she said she would
not. He said the matter would be investigated and placed before the court, but
she said she was not handing over the dog.

Cross-examined by Ms Catron, he
agreed she had told him the dog had a procedure several days earlier and she
was concerned that if she handed it over it would not get the care it needed.

Mr. Ward asked if Ms Catron
indicated she would be willing to hand it over later. Mr. Yearwood replied,
“She simply said she wasn’t going to hand it over.”

He said a warrant was eventually
obtained to enter the premises and remove the dog. It had been taken to the
Department of Agriculture.

The matter first came to court on
23 March. It was listed twice in April and trial began on 4 May.

After the magistrate ruled there
was no case to answer, he added, “I wish to say I am appalled the case had to
come before the court at all and take up so much police and court time.”

Ms Catron was a candidate for Bodden
Town in the General Elections of
2009 and 2005.

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