Captain the dog’s tortured death leads to cruelty charges against Vancouver man

Steve Mertl
National Affairs Contributor
Daily Brew

Setting aside the horrific sled-dog massacre, the story of Captain the German shepherd was one of the most notorious B.C. cases of animal abuse made public in recent years.

Now, five months after the dog was found badly hurt and dying in a Vancouver dumpster, his ostensible owner is finally facing animal-cruelty charges, The Canadian Press reports.

[ Related: Sled dog killer Robert Fawcett avoids jail ]

Brian Whitlock, is scheduled to appear in court later this week charged under the Criminal Code with causing unnecessary pain or suffering to an animal, B.C. SPCA spokeswoman Lorie Chortyk said.

Captain died July 19, the day after being discovered wrapped in a bloody blanket after residents of the upscale Kitsilano neighbourhood howls of pain coming from a dumpster. He was rushed to a veterinary hospital but didn't survive massive injuries, which included cuts and bruises to his head and body.

"His injuries were just too serious and he died of cardiac arrest," said Chortyk.

Whitlock was identified as Captain's owner, she said. As a puppy, Captain and washed out of police-dog training for being too gentle. He was moved to a private home and ended up with Whitlock, Chortyk told CP.

Captain's discovery caused a storm of outrage, with the SPCA receiving emails and calls from thousands of people across North America, as well as $74,000 in donations, she said.

Whitlock, 26, could face maximum penalties of up to five years in prison, a $75,000 fine and a lifetime ban on owning animals.

His lawyer, Tony Paisana, told the Globe and Mail it's too early to say how his client will plead but noted there are aspects of the story the public doesn't know yet.

"I would certainly encourage everyone to reserve judgment until all the facts are known," Paisana said.

"Of course, I am a bit limited on what I can disclose being this early in the process, but there's certainly more to the story than what's being reported. I think it would give a completely different complexion on the file."

Whitlock was identified as Captain's owner early in the investigation. In July, court documents revealed his mother "confirmed her son was having some mental-health issues," the Globe said.

When Whitlock made a court appearance on an unrelated charge, protesters showed up to express their outrage about Captain.

[ Related: Vigil for beaten dog draws hundreds in Vancouver ]

Chortyk told CP the B.C. SPCA investigates about 7,000 animal-cruelty cases each year.

"Unfortunately, we see cases like this all the time," she said. "To us it's just so sad when we see animals that are victims of violence and abuse, and situations that really should never happen to a vulnerable animal."

The web site includes Captain's story on its list of dozens of publicized cruelty cases.

Captain was buried in the same SPCA cemetery in Pentiction, B.C., that holds the remains of 56 sled dogs slaughtered after the 2010 Winter Olympics, CP said.

Many British Columbians were outraged when Robert Fawcett, who admitted killing the huskies because of a decline in tourism business after the Games, received only probation and a fine after pleading guilty to cruelty counts involving nine of the dogs.

Like Whitlock, he could have faced a hefty fine and lengthy jail term under B.C.'s tough animal-cruelty laws for his ham-fisted culling of the sled dogs.