- City of North Bay, Ontario, Canada
Save the life of Dunaj the "Downtown Doberman"
IN THE WORDS OF WITNESS TONY LOEFFEN
THE VALUE OF TRUTH
I was a witness to the event in mid-October that led to the Health Unit taking Dunaj into custody and ordering that he be destroyed. As such, I feel that I can be of assistance to anyone who is interested in discovering the truth of this matter.
So, why would the authorities not want to hear my account of the incident? Why would they not want to hear from the other witnesses? ...After all, I’m not the only one…
Shortly after Rob watched his best friend being hauled off to his new home in a cage at the Humane Society, he told me that I should expect a call from someone at the Health Unit. I had no doubt that after speaking with me and the other witnesses, Dunaj would be returned to his home. I could not imagine any other result; the truth that I saw with my own eyes, is on Dunaj’s side.
Here is what I witnessed, in brief: a very drunk man kicked Dunaj in the head. It was completely unprovoked. Dunaj was leashed, and waiting patiently for Rob to lock up his store at the time. In response to the violent act, Dunaj barked at the guy, but did not bite him. The drunk guy barked back at Dunaj, getting in his face. I ran over and shoved him away from the dog and stood in between them. I called 911. Later he was arrested by the North Bay Police. These are the most salient facts, in chronological order.
When I did not get a call from the Health Unit, I assumed that the investigation was ongoing, and that they were busy, and that they would get to me when they could. To make things easier for them, I wrote them a letter and gave it to Rob, who forwarded it to them, along with letters from the other witnesses. No one heard back on that.
As it turns out, I was wrong in my assumption that I would hear from them at all. Even after I phoned to speak with the Public Health Inspector, and left a message, there was no response.
The investigation was not ongoing, apparently there was no investigation. A decision was made to destroy Dunaj based on the complaint of the drunk guy that kicked him. Here is why I know that…
Late last week, Rob had a conference call scheduled between himself, his lawyer, the lawyer from the Health Unit, and someone whose job it seemed to be, to moderate the discussion. Unfortunately, Rob’s lawyer could not be there due to an urgent personal matter. So, Rob asked me to be there to take notes. The discussion was about disclosure, and the upcoming hearing.
At one point, I introduced myself as a witness to the event, and asked why no one from the Health Unit had contacted me. I was told that it wasn’t the Health Unit’s job to take my statement because I am Rob’s witness. I did not understand. As a witness why would I belong to anyone? A witness shouldn’t belong a side, even if the witness in question could be more useful to one side than the other. That having been said, I didn’t know that there were sides. I thought there was a process in place aimed at discovering the truth. I was wrong about that.
We learned that the decision had been made to destroy Dunaj, and the hearing that was supposed to be this Tuesday was an opportunity for Rob to prove that the decision was unreasonable. The emotions were intense in that room. We were shocked, and confused. I didn’t understand how a decision could have been made without talking to the witnesses!
It seemed to me, based on this conversation, that the Health Unit had made a decision based on an incomplete set of facts, and then shunned witnesses that would not support that decision.
Then we were told that the Health Unit would need a delay in order to prepare their case. Rob would not agree. Every day in captivity is a day of suffering for his best friend. His response was that he is ready to make the case. The witnesses have already booked two days off work to be at the hearing. As a means of convincing Rob to accept a delay until after Christmas, the lawyer for the Health Unit indicated that he would move to have the appeal dismissed on technical grounds.
What a bombshell.
I asked the lawyer if he would feel comfortable having a dog executed after suppressing evidence in the form of witness testimony that could exonerate him. The lawyer expressed displeasure at my having referred to what was to happen to Dunaj as execution. I asked him if he cared about the truth or if he was only concerned about winning. I can’t remember his answer, but I do recall having the impression that it was evasive.
If they succeed in killing Dunaj without showing an interest in the truth of the matter, one would assume that they must have reconciled themselves with the possibility that they may be executing an innocent dog. If they win, and their victory affords them the privilege of executing an innocent dog, can anyone imagine a victory more hollow and disgusting?
This is the exact issue that makes this case about more than just the fate of Dunaj, one man’s furry buddy. This case encapsulates a lot of what is wrong with our society.
It is hard to blame this lawyer isn’t it? He is literally doing the job he is paid to do. He was hired to defend a decision that was made regarding Dunaj’s fate regardless of whether the decision is just or not. He will use any means necessary to do this. If he did not, in our current system, he would be flipping burgers sooner than later.
Here is a question that speaks to the very foundations of our approach to justice… if a lawyer has to renounce any love of the truth in order to do his job properly, do we, as a society not have a problem?
Why are we on different sides? Why are we not on the same side, identifying the facts, attempting to discern the truth of the matter and then working together in the light of that truth to do what is best for the community?
Rob would have no problem with that. If Dunaj bit someone, there would not be a conversation about whether or not Dunaj bit someone. There would be a conversation about whether or not the theoretical bite in question would warrant the death penalty. This was not one of those situations we all sometimes hear about where an aggressive dog rips the face off of a little girl who will go through the rest of her life, if she was lucky enough to survive, severely maimed. If Dunaj’s accuser is to be believed, the bite was not even a serious one. Go figure.
However, we are not having a discussion about whether the punishment should fit the crime, because according to several eye witnesses, including myself, there was no crime.
If the truth comes to light, Dunaj has no problem, other than the suffering he has endured in captivity. If the truth does not come to light, Dunaj’s life may be over, but he is not the only one with a problem. We all have a problem, because we live in a society that does not value truth.
The above is an account of facts as I understand them. My opinions may not represent the opinions of Rob Szalas in any way, and I have not been encouraged to write this letter by anyone. As a witness, I should remain objective, as opposed to lobbying for a side or a result. I feel that I am remaining objective. I am merely lobbying for my account of what happened to be heard and taken into consideration by whomever finally decides Dunaj’s fate, and because I am not certain that it will be, I am speaking publicly.
- City of North Bay, Ontario, Canada
Save the life of Dunaj the Downtown Doberman
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