A St. Thomas man who abandoned two dogs and a cat in a sweltering apartment with no food or water was sentenced to four months in jail Tuesday afternoon.
In addition, 20-year-old Cody Yeo was slapped with a 10-year prohibition on owning any animal.
In sentencing Yeo, Justice Marietta Roberts – who was handed “graphic” photographs of the squalid apartment unit and the two dead dogs – said she hoped the jail time would act as a deterrent, adding “this is the most appropriate sentence to take you out of the community.”
St. Thomas animal welfare activist Lois Jackson called the term of incarceration “reassuring.”
Yeo – who sobbed quietly during the proceedings at the Elgin County Courthouse – and his common-law partner Payton Garner had each been charged with three counts of causing injury to an animal and one count of mischief under $5,000 as a result of damage to the apartment at 104 Confederation Drive.
On Aug. 19, the property manager entered the fourth floor unit after receiving complaints of a strong odor. She was greeted by “an extreme odor of decay” and the unit in complete disarray.
She then discovered a malnourished cat in distress with no food or water and a dead dog in each of the two bedrooms.
The body of a small, mixed-breed dog was found on a child’s bed with no food or water and the floor covered in feces.
The body of a larger, mixed-breed dog was on the bed in the second bedroom, again with no food or water, and a feces-covered floor.
All indications were the animals had been there for some time.
Police were called, the apartment was secured and the carcasses removed.
The property manager told police the couple were behind in rent but had not been evicted.
The apartment owners, Skyline Living, indicated the bill for cleanup and restoration of the unit amounted to $4,298.
Defence lawyer Bevan Earhart said his client had no stable family relationship as a youngster and became a ward of the Crown at the age of 17.
Earhart indicted he has known Yeo for some time and after his release from Elgin Middlesex Detention Centre in 2015, he was attempting to turn his life around.
“This is not the same Cody Yeo I dealt with as a youth,” stressed Earhart. He added Yeo had admitted, “as a teenager I was a real asshole.”
He portrayed Yeo as stepping into the role of a father for Garner’s four-year-old son.
While not condoning Yeo’s actions, Earhart pointed out he did not actively torture the animals, it was a case of neglect.
He said the couple had been living in squalor and fallen behind in their rent. Some time previous, Garner moved out of the unit to live with her mother.
Yeo assured her he had taken care of the animals, giving them to friends.
With little money, Yeo said he could not afford to take the animals to a vet or have them removed by animal control.
He insisted he visited the apartment on a regular basis to check on the welfare of the animals, but as the Crown noted, he used the back door so he would not be caught coming and going on a surveillance camera.
Earhart sought a three-month intermittent sentence or four to six month conditional sentence with a two-year animal prohibition.
He did acknowledge the drawn-out suffering of the animals and the need to send a strong message that abuse of animals should not be tolerated.
The Crown asked for four months custody, 12 to 18 months probation and a 10-year prohibition, in addition to 50 hours of community service and restitution of the almost $5,000 cleaning bill, noting an intermittent sentence would “send the wrong message.”
In her remarks, Justice Roberts noted the sentence would have been longer except for Yeo’s guilty plea.
She set probation at one year, felt community service was not appropriate and argued financial restitution for cleanup was up to the apartment owners to pursue.
The charges against Garner were dropped by the Crown after determining she was unaware of the fate of the animals.
While the sentence will not bring the dogs back said Jackson, owner of All Breed Canine Rescue and chair of the city’s animal welfare committee, Justice Roberts “certainly wasn’t lenient” in handing down a four-month sentence.
“It does send a message,” Jackson continued, “there are judges and communities that take these things seriously. We’re really, really pleased that it was taken seriously. These cases are unbelievably sad and horrible. I was so worried it would be a slap on the wrist. This sends a message to the community that we care. It’s also a message from the authorities that they take it seriously. And they are prepared to act on it. It’s reassuring.”
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