“When we choose to take on the responsibility of owning a pet, it means exactly that.”
Jason Remai, 37, at Kentville provincial court on Wednesday.
This was the message from Judge Claudine MacDonald as she handed the maximum sentence on Wednesday to a Lunenburg man found guilty of failing to provide his dog with reasonable protection from injurious heat.
Jason Remai, 37, was ordered to pay a $5,000 fine or serve 90 days in custody on willful default on the Animal Protection Act of Nova Scotia charge. He has been given until Dec. 21, 2015 to pay. If he is unable to pay in time, he can apply to the court for an extension. Remai has also been handed a 10-year prohibition on owning or having the care of an animal.
Remai represented himself at the sentencing. He said he had good intentions taking his Portuguese water dog, Jackie, with him to Wolfville on July 21, 2013. Remai was attending an herbalist convention. The dog died after being left in a locked car with the windows closed for approximately two hours.
“There’s no question in my mind that my heart was in the right place,” Remai told the court.
Remai said he loved his dog and described the veterinary care he provided for Jackie. He said he started taking the dog with him in the car more often after he lost a roommate who used to help look after Jackie. Remai said he bonded with the dog and couldn’t leave him in the house by himself, so he would take the dog with him.
Remai said there were three other people in the world he could count on to help care for Jackie that weren’t available on the day the dog died. He said a lot of people have told him in retrospect that he should have left the dog at home. Remai said he doesn’t agree with that.
“I genuinely believe the right thing to do was to take him with me, and that’s what I did,” he said.
Remai said as far as he is concerned, he took responsibility when he had to tell his daughter what happened and hold her while she “wailed.” He said he had a high stress level that day and “sometimes life gives you more than you can handle.”
He said someone he loved was having an issue that was “very disturbing to me” and that was the “big distraction” that made him incapable of thinking clearly.
Remai said he had the dog out of the car but was told by three people it wasn’t allowed in the gardens. He said people were mad at him for having the dog out of the car and mad at him for leaving the dog in the car.
MacDonald said she was hearing “nothing but excuses” for what happened. Remai said he was “distracted” and not good at multitasking. MacDonald said it was “bordering on the incomprehensible” that Remai thought he did the right thing by taking the dog with him.
She said she was “really troubled” by this.
“Does that make sense to you, given what happened to the dog?” MacDonald said.
MacDonald said Remai should have realized the potential danger when it was brought to his attention that the dog had been left in the car.
“One would think that, but that’s not what happened,” the judge said. “I don’t have any sense at all that you’re taking responsibility for what happened.”
Scott Saunders of People for Dogs, an animal welfare group, said he thinks the decision is “monumental.”
“There’s no excuse for animal abuse and there’s no excuse for what he did and I think the judge did a fair job,” Saunders said.
He said Remai’s request to do volunteer work with animals or seniors in lieu of the fine was “unbelievable.” Saunders doesn’t recall seeing a 10-year prohibition levied and the decision sends a very clear message.
“Mr. Remai has shown no remorse whatsoever,” Saunders said. “I think it’s very positive that a judge has handed down a 10-year prohibition on someone being so negligent.”