Top News

Dartmouth woman gets probation, 10-year ban on owning animals for abusing dog

A pit bull named Nutmeg is shown in February 2019, two months after she was brought to a veterinary clinic in Dartmouth suffering from emaciation. The dog's former owner pleaded guilty to a charge of animal cruelty and has been placed on probation for 18 months.
A pit bull named Nutmeg is shown in February 2019, two months after it was brought to a veterinary clinic in Dartmouth suffering from emaciation. The dog's former owner pleaded guilty to a charge of animal cruelty and has been placed on probation for 18 months and banned from having animals for 10 years. - Halifax Regional Police

A dog that was given away by its owner in December 2018 was so emaciated that staff at a Dartmouth veterinary hospital feared they might not be able to save it.

The 17-month-old pit bull weighed only 13.8 kilograms and, in the opinion of the veterinarian, had likely been deprived of proper nutrition and the basic necessities of life other than water for several months.

The hospital reported the abuse to the Nova Scotia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and to Halifax Regional Police.

Last week, the dog’s owner was sentenced in Halifax provincial court after pleading guilty to a Criminal Code charge of wilfully causing unnecessary pain, suffering or injury to an animal.

Judge Alan Tufts placed Asia Chanel Jones, 22, of Dartmouth on probation for 18 months and prohibited her from owning animals for 10 years.

“This is a defenceless animal that was entirely dependent on the defendant … for (its) well-being,” Tufts said in his sentencing decision. “Ms. Jones neglected her responsibilities. The gravity of this offence is reasonably high.

“Judging Ms. Jones’ moral culpability and degree of responsibility is a little bit more difficult. … What was going on in (her) mind at the time is difficult to discern.”


“This is a defenceless animal that was entirely dependent on the defendant … for (its) well-being."

- Judge Alan Tufts


According to an agreed statement of facts, Jones and boyfriend Ricardo Sparks bought the dog, Nyla, from a woman on Facebook in August 2017, when it was just over six weeks old.

A veterinary certificate of health dated Aug. 25, 2017, said the puppy weighed 3.68 kilograms and was in good health.

One year later, the dog weighed 24.5 kilograms.

In December 2018, Jones placed an ad on Kijiji offering the dog for free, saying Nyla was “very, very skinny like she hasn’t ate in months”  and she didn’t “want to see this puppy die.”

A man picked the dog up in a crate outside Jones’ apartment on Hollis Street in Halifax and took it home to his girlfriend. When they opened the crate to let the dog out, Nyla fell to the floor.

After calling animal control, the woman stayed up with the dog all night and fed it every hour. The next morning, she delivered the dog to the Harbour Cities Veterinary Hospital.

The dog was ravenous when offered food and had a systolic heart murmur. It had scabbed wounds, pressure sores and ulcers all over its body due to the fact that there was very little fat or muscle to cushion its bones.

The end of the dog’s tail had been chewed on, causing open ulcerations and scabbing, and dried urine on its thighs and shoulders indicated it had not been supplied with proper bedding.

Dr. Paige Marryatt said that in her 16 years as a veterinarian, she had never seen that degree of emaciation in a dog that was still alive.

The dog, which was renamed Nutmeg, required round-the-clock care for the first two weeks at the hospital.

By the end of January 2019, Nutmeg weighed more than 20 kilograms, with improved muscle mass, stamina and energy. “She was then able to run and play without her limbs trembling and giving out on her,” Crown attorney Janine Kidd told the court.


“Based on the veterinary evidence, I think it’s fair to say she was at, if not very close to, death’s door."

- Crown attorney Janine Kidd


Nutmeg weighed more than 26 kilograms by August 2019 and was finally healthy enough to be spayed.

Kidd said she was recently advised by the SPCA that Nutmeg was in foster care awaiting adoption.

The police investigation determined that the crate the dog had been kept in for an extended period of time was neither tall enough for it to stand up nor long enough for it to lie down.

The prosecutor asked for three to four months of jail time for Jones, as well as probation and a prohibition on having animals.

“Based on the veterinary evidence, I think it’s fair to say she was at, if not very close to, death’s door,” Kidd said of the dog.

She said it would have taken “a significant amount of time” for the dog to lose almost half its body weight

“Between August and December, there were many chances for Ms. Jones to have made other decisions,” she said.

Defence lawyer Laura McCarthy said probation would be an appropriate sentence for Jones, who had a child last November and now lives with her parents.

McCarthy told the court her client’s mental health “was not the greatest” when the dog’s condition deteriorated in the fall of 2018. She said Jones was in the process of breaking up with her boyfriend at the time and was living with her grandmother, which meant the dog was left alone in her apartment for extended periods.

“She wasn’t regularly there for the dog,” McCarthy said. “Over time, the dog was losing weight and chewing on its tail. … (Jones) didn’t react as she should have."

She said Jones accepts full responsibility for her actions and is genuinely remorseful for the “unfortunate situation.”

The judge said it was remarkable that the dog survived Ms. Jones’ “wilful blindness to her responsibility.”

“I have to say I struggled with the injuries to this dog and the degree of harm that this dog experienced,” Tufts said.

“But at the end of the day, I’m satisfied that the objectives of sentencing can be achieved with … the imposition of a period of probation.”

Jones must follow an 8 p.m.-6 a.m. curfew for the first three months of her probation. The judge also ordered her to complete 25 hours of community service and take part in any counselling deemed necessary by  her probation officer.

Outside court, Kidd said she was disappointed with the sentence but respected the court’s decision.

“Neglect is abuse,” the Crown attorney said. “This dog needlessly suffered for a long time and almost died while in Ms. Jones’ custody.”

Jones was also charged with wilfully neglecting or failing to provide adequate food, water, shelter and care to an animal, but that count was dismissed. The judge also dismissed a pair of charges against Sparks, 39, of Dartmouth.

RELATED:

Recent Stories