It took exactly a year for the Oakville and Milton Humane Society to resolve one of the worst cases of neglect it has ever encountered, but at the end of it all Mea the Bulldog/Shar Pei cross has a bright future and her Milton, Ont., owners are headed for jail.
“It’s a great day,” said Amanda Barrett, who heads the society’s animal-protection unit. “The big message is: Animals are living things and they need the same care as a person does – water, food and adequate care.”
Until January, Mea, now 5, had little of any of that. When she was finally removed from the home of Natasha Janajevic and Steven Lopez she was taken from an unheated garage where she was tethered up without food or water. Emaciated with patches of fur missing, she also had a case of glaucoma so severe that one of her eyes had to be removed.
The glaucoma “would be like having a pounding headache 24/7,” said Brenda Dushko, the society’s media officer.
Now, however, it is Ms. Janajevic and Mr. Lopez who are upset. Both were clearly dismayed at being jailed – the first such sentence in the society’s 75-year history – and Ms. Janajevic screamed out in court and swore, Ms. Dushko said.
Convicted under the provincial OSPCA Act of causing distress to an animal and permitting distress to an animal, Ms. Janajevic was sentenced to 45 days in jail, to be served on weekends, fined $5,000 and placed on probation.
Mr. Lopez got a 30-day sentence on the same charges, and he too was fined $5,000.
As well, the couple is prohibited from owning, caring for or residing with an animal for the next 10 years.
But the wheels of canine justice ground slowly.
It was an anonymous phone tip last November that first drew attention to Mea’s plight, but not until January were humane society inspectors able to make contact with her owners, who never appeared to be home and ignored four notices posted on their front door, and locate the dog in their garage.
When they did, Mea was removed for several months of veterinary care, and her owners were charged.
But by June, Mea was much improved, and because the case was still before the courts she was allowed to go back to her owners as the humane society and prosecutors built their case, alleging extreme neglect.
Finally, they secured the criminal convictions they sought.
Mea’s future is up in the air. Returned to the humane society, she’s being reassessed at a veterinary clinic and is described as affectionate and intelligent.
And what’s most remarkable, Ms. Barrett says, is how well she’s survived her ordeal.
“She’s a wonderful dog, it’s such a shame she had to go through this. But I think it’s made her the dog that she is.”