Photo by Photo Submitted
Photo by Photo Submitted
The owner of the Tagish Dog Kennel has decided to file a $1-million defamation lawsuit against her neighbours.
Shelley Cuthbert filed her lawsuit on Monday against neighbours Stefan and Ursula Angerer, Leopold and Edeltraud Selinger, Gerry McGraw, Stefan Landfried, Emerald Gillespie, Anne Middler and Lisa Gallant.
Cuthbert claims that the neighbours defamed her character on social media, in the local media and started rumours in the community.
She said the alleged slander has destroyed her reputation and caused emotional distress. She gave examples that the neighbours said her property is smelly and she is not home to supervise the dogs for up to 20 hours per day.
Cuthbert claims her neighbours harassed her and destroyed some of her personal property, by videotaping and photographing the dogs. Damage was also done to her fencing.
She last alleges trespassing by Stefan Angerer, who, she claims, has known since 2013 that his fence posts are on her property and has not removed them.
She is seeking $500,000 for the destruction of her reputation, property damage, emotional distress and the pain and suffering of the dogs.
Next is $200,000 for lost economic value of her business and $200,000 for loss of property value that was a result of the permanent injunction levied against her.
For the trespassing, she is seeking $100,000, bringing the total to $1 million.
She also wants her legal costs to be paid and a public apology issued.
Cuthbert’s case was before Yukon Supreme Court yesterday, but the lawsuit was not discussed.
The neighbours’ lawyer, Graham Lang, advised the court that he is looking for Cuthbert to co-operate with efforts to remove the dogs from her property to be put in shelters.
The RCMP and the territorial government’s Animal Control Unit will be part of the inspection. Failure to co-operate would land Cuthbert in civil contempt of court.
Lang explained that if found in contempt, Cuthbert would be arrested and detained rather than just being fined.
He argued that without co-operation, the only option would be to detain her and settle the matter. The court could have issued a fine instead, but he didn’t feel that would have worked.
“It is very clear Mrs. Cuthbert is in contempt,” Lang said.
He said it should be no surprise to Cuthbert that she could be found in contempt after not following court orders. The court order was to keep only two dogs as pets and not have any additional dogs on her property. Her two dogs must be kept inside from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m.
Lang said she took in more dogs and didn’t stop operations. She also told media that she would not comply. He felt these were hitting all the points for contempt.
Cuthbert, who appeared in court by phone, asked Justice Leigh Gower if she was being found in contempt.
Gower said not at this point, and told Lang that this notice was filed last Monday, and she had not received seven days’ notice.
Lang told Gower that he wants to know if Cuthbert will now co-operate with the court order to only have two dogs on her property and wind down her operation in Tagish. He asked the court to put this matter over to next Tuesday to deal with possible contempt of court. He said that on Tuesday, seven days would have passed.
“This situation remains difficult for the neighbours,” Lang said.
He explained that the plan is to inspect her property and see the surrender of as many dogs as possible.
Lang said if Cuthbert was found in contempt, she would be arrested and detailed. He added that the Animal Health Unit wants her to co-operate. Officials want to see her helping at the front gate, and hope this situation does not escalate, as they felt it’s already volatile.
Lang said the court is at a crossroads. Cuthbert has been provided many options to co-operate but has refused.
This refusal has forced the courts to set the table for more drastic actions. He added that the neighbours are willing to work with Cuthbert provided she co-operates.
Gower asked how many dogs could go to the shelters, adding he has heard the limit is 10.
Lang said he hopes that with the help of the Mae Bachur Animal Shelter, more dogs can be taken off the property. He said that it would still take time to wind down Cuthbert’s kennel.
Gower asked what would happen after next Tuesday. Lang said if Cuthbert co-operates, he would put over his applications for contempt.
There will be assessment made and another inspection of the property will be set up.
He estimated that Cuthbert has between 40 and 60 dogs on her property and that she would need two to three months to unwind operations.
He said each of these dogs would need to be assessed and the adoptable ones need to be placed in homes. He said they don’t know what to expect.
“We are operating in the dark,” he said.
Cuthbert said she will be moving all the dogs to another property at an unspecified location. She will live on this new property and build a new kennel there.
“I am the one that will remove them,” Cuthbert said.
Gower said Cuthbert may not understand that she has breached a court order.
Cuthbert said that all dogs will be gone from the property by Monday. She explained she is not trying to be unco-operative, but is concerned about surrendering the dogs to shelters.
Gower explained that this plan is good, but if a dog is found on the property next Tuesday, she will be arrested. Cuthbert said that’s fine, because she and the dogs will all be gone.
Lang later told reporters he does not expect Cuthbert to have a solution to the issue. He felt her plan will be acceptable provided that the dogs are removed.
He added that her plan will be beneficial because the neighbours won’t be responsible for shutting down the kennel and removing the dogs.
“We’re all off the hook,” he said.
Lang conceded this benefit to his clients could be a detriment to people living around Cuthbert’s next property, but hopes that is not the case.
“It is our hope sincerely that Ms. Cuthbert finds a place to safely house the dogs away from neighbours in such a way not to cause a nuisance,” he said.
Lang said he has had no contact with Cuthbert. He sent her a letter last week requesting that she wind down her operation, but did not hear back from her until she filed her lawsuit.
Lang said he did not know the suit was coming. He called the charges frivolous and vexatious because she is questioning statements made in court that turned out to be true.
He expects the court will throw it out during the first instance, and believes it’s a collateral attack on the court order.
“She is going to have difficulty pursuing that line of attack against her neighbours,” he said.
Lang hopes she drops the lawsuit if her plan to move the kennel succeeds. If she does, everyone can move on and go their separate ways, he said.
The matter will be back in court Tuesday to review the contempt order, with Cuthbert again attending by phone. There will be a case management conference regarding her lawsuit on July 24.
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