On Oct. 20, 2010, Jesse John McLeod got drunk and had a fight with his girlfriend in the small town of Biggar, west of Saskatoon.
He went home, put her dog in his truck, drove 10 or 15 minutes out of town on a country road, and used a piece of rope to hang her beloved pet from a tree branch in a wooded area.
Testifying in provincial court earlier this year, the 29-year-old said he used “a proper slip knot” and did it “just like the old western movies.”
McLeod left the dog hanging there in the bushes, dead. He did not tell his girlfriend what he had done. She put up posters and searched for her missing pet until the dog was found, still hanging from the tree, 11 days later.
“The accused says that he hung the dog because it was aggressive. He had not agreed to his girlfriend bringing the dog home in the first place, and referred to his actions as a display of ‘tough love,’ ” Judge Violet Meekma noted in a recent written decision.
McLeod pleaded guilty to a criminal charge of animal cruelty at a court appearance in February, when the Crown and defence requested a pre-sentence report and psychological assessment.
However, before he could be sentenced, he fired his defence lawyer, hired a new one, and applied to have the guilty plea expunged, claiming he had not understood that he was pleading guilty to causing the dog unnecessary pain, suffering, or injury — only that he had killed the dog by hanging it.
At an expungement hearing earlier this year, McLeod testified that “from personal experience of being choked himself when he was 13 years old and carrying a little cousin around while hanging onto his neck, you don’t really feel anything, you just feel a little bit of pressure in your head and black out,” Meekma wrote.
“He also referred to the experience of having a slip knot around his own neck and when asked, ‘You don’t really know how much suffering you caused the animal, do you?’, he responded, ‘I do. It takes about five seconds and everything goes black and you get scared and you pull your weight up off that rope.’ ”
Unnecessary pain and suffering for the animal were the natural consequences of McLeod strangling it, the judge noted in refusing to expunge his plea.
“Choking it to death in this manner was cruel, inhumane and unnecessary, even were the dog becoming aggressive and euthanasia justified. But the evidence suggests a more sinister motive on the part of the accused, that of punishing his girlfriend in a manner which he describes as ‘tough love,’ ” Meekma wrote.
“The circumstances here go further than recklessness. They support evil intention.”
McLeod is still awaiting sentencing. His next court appearance is Dec. 7.
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