– by Miranda Miller

Last week, a man walking his dog off-leash lost control of his pet, which killed several laying hens at a friend's farm. He and the dog trespassed 100 metres onto the farm property and damaged the electric fence in the process.

When confronted, the man tossed $20 at the person present and left the scene with his dog. 

I am writing not as a spokesperson for anyone involved but as a friend of the farmer who, in attempting to help locate this man, witnessed and experienced a few troubling trends.

With only this man's license plate to go on, the farmers began the arduous process of investigating what could be done.

They contacted all they were advised to contact – police, MNR, the animal shelter, etc. Their concerns are serious, and many:

  • This dog runs loose often, and upon getting his description, they knew they had spoken to the owner about the dog being loose on their property before.
  • This is a family farm. They have small children who help tend the laying hens and could be seriously hurt if caught between their chickens and an attacking dog.
  • The farmer was aware of others attempting to locate a loose dog and man matching the same description, re: a Canada Goose gosling being killed days before in front of staff at a local business.
  • $20 does not come close to compensating them for the damage to their fence and loss of laying hens that provide eggs to local families via their Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program – and neither does his follow-up offer of $210. This is not a negotiation; real damages were done.
  • The man refused to identify himself and left the scene.

By a stroke of luck, another person aware of the incident recognized the license plate from a home nearby. A few days after the attack, the farmers went to the man's house with an invoice for the damages caused and recorded their interaction with him on video. 

I've seen that video, and it was only after watching it that I decided to post the man's photo on social media to see if anyone recognized him.

They still didn't have the man's name. Days after the attack, he still refused to accept responsibility and was more interested in explaining his position as a "conscientious objector to our leash laws" than hearing these people's valid concerns.

In this exchange, the man in question admitted his dog has a taste for blood and has killed chickens and Canada Geese. He admitted to being the man whose dog trespassed onto the farm and killed these hens. 

In the next breath, he vigorously defended his belief that his dog does not need to be muzzled or on a leash, calling it an "absurd" suggestion.

He was dismissive of the farmers' concerns and repeatedly stated the dog was good with other people and children so it's "fine," as though knowing his dog kills some creatures and not others absolves him of any responsibility for keeping it under control. 

"Sorry, but..." is not an apology.

It was clear by the end of the 7-minute conversation I saw on video that he has no intention of controlling his dog in the future.

I publicly posted the man's photo on Facebook and asked if anyone could identify him. Quite quickly, a name emerged, and it was revealed that the man in question is a local elected official and a representative of our community.

While many who saw the "Who is this?" post responded that they hope he's held accountable, some have suggested it was unfair to "out" him publicly, making comments like:

  • This man "is very civic-minded and involved in advancing social justice issues so I'm sure after some reflection, he will do the right thing."
  • "Come on people. Trial by social media is not appropriate under any circumstance."
  • "Regardless of what occurred... harassment is uncalled for. It's one thing if the guy was a pedophile."

Some contacted me privately to suggest I go speak with him directly; that it's inappropriate to have shared his photo on social media.

And yet I see social posts every week with photos from phone cameras, security footage, and trail cams featuring the faces of people who've committed crimes – typically property crimes – and left the scene to avoid being held accountable. 

When I was accosted by a man outside our home in Owen Sound recently, no one suggested me or my friends should go talk with him to allow him to share his reasoning and motivations for trespassing onto our property.

The police had attended, spoken with him, and sent him on his way without repercussion.

I posted his photo so others would know that someone in our community posed a risk to others through his unwillingness to follow the laws that guide us as a civil society. No one got upset about that.

This is no different. At least, it shouldn't be. Why does the standard change when the offender is a middle-aged, well-to-do man rather than someone experiencing poverty, homelessness, or addiction?

In all of the "Who is this?" posts I've seen over the past several years, I haven't seen a response like this, with influential Owen Sounders campaigning for their rights to privacy or suggesting we just give them time to think about it.

We are all adults here who know it's wrong to leave the scene and refuse to identify yourself when your actions have caused harm in some way. We all make mistakes, but what happens next defines who we are to others at that moment. 

Had this man identified himself, sincerely apologized, made reparations for the actual damage (not his idea of how much that figure is), and pledged to take action to prevent anything like this from happening in the future, there would never have been an attempt to identify him. No posts, no photo, no publicity.

However, this man's refusal to follow laws in place for the protection of fellow community members has been exposed as a result of his own actions.

Now we know we have an elected representative who "conscientiously objects" to leash laws by allowing a dog with a strong prey drive for birds to run free and kill more of them.

We are to take his word for it that a child, cat, or other creature won't ever get in the way and become collateral damage.

This calls for more scrutiny and conversation, not less.

We cannot pick and choose which laws apply to us, especially when we are supposed to be setting an example for others – not when you have positioned yourself as someone responsible enough to set the rules and regulations that apply to others.

I hope this man has a change of heart and pays full restitution – and fast – even though the time and stress this has caused a lovely, community-minded family cannot be compensated. 

As a dog lover, I have grave concerns about this dog running as free as its owner allows in this province, where shooting a dog that attacks your livestock is legal.

This pet owner is very fortunate the farm he and his dog damaged is willing to pursue these avenues with him after the fact, as there could have been a number of different and tragic endings that day.

He should be taking every precaution possible to protect his dog by keeping it well under control, not trying to convince people that his beliefs somehow elevate him above the law.

I will not be reaching out to this man to give him another opportunity to explain his position.

I've seen and heard it, and that's a waste of my time.

Further, I will not apologize for posting a "Do you know this man?" photo simply because the person in question turned out to have friends in high places.

Perhaps his champions could focus their energy on influencing him to do the right thing here instead of trying to shut down and shame any talk about what actually happened.


Photo by Mayukh Karmakar on Unsplash








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