Crown says man knew his dogs were dangerous before they attacked several people

·4 min read
Most of Michael Kirby's dogs have been described as Louisiana Catahoula leopard dog mixes. The dog shown here is a purebred. They come in a variety of coat and eye colours.  (American Kennel Club - image credit)
Most of Michael Kirby's dogs have been described as Louisiana Catahoula leopard dog mixes. The dog shown here is a purebred. They come in a variety of coat and eye colours. (American Kennel Club - image credit)

A Saint John man accused of letting his dogs run loose on the lower west side in 2018 was back in court Tuesday to see if the Crown is allowed to add to the evidence against him.

Michael Edmond Kirby, 58, is on trial on four counts of criminal negligence causing bodily harm, and one of failing to abide by a court undertaking to keep his dogs on leash and muzzled when in public.

The case is now tied up in legal arguments over the admissibility of so-called "similar act evidence" that centres around an earlier attack in 2018 and Kirby having to shoot one of his dogs in 2015.

The lead investigator in the case testified in March that Kirby told her he kept a gun handy in case one of his dogs turned on him.

That, says the Crown, proves that he knew his dogs could be dangerous.

Lawyers for both sides spent the day in discussions with Justice Arthur Doyle, but no decision was made. The case is tentatively set to return to court on June 7.

Numerous attacks alleged

In March, the court heard allegations that Kirby's dogs attacked six people between June and December 2018. Most of his dogs were described as Louisiana Catahoula leopard dog mixes.

According to the American Kennel Club's website, the Louisiana Catahoula leopard dog "requires firm guidance and early socialization, as they can be independent, territorial, and protective."

The first complainant in the case testified that he was attacked by several dogs on his way from the port, where he worked, to the Tim Hortons on King Street West on Aug. 22, 2018. He said the dogs formed a semi-circle around him and bit his legs as he ran to a transport truck parked nearby.

Michael Edmond Kirby, was charged with more than 30 bylaw infractions and criminal charges related to his Louisiana Catahoula leopard dogs.
Michael Edmond Kirby, was charged with more than 30 bylaw infractions and criminal charges related to his Louisiana Catahoula leopard dogs. (Brian Chisholm/CBC)

He said he couldn't be sure but thought there were six dogs involved.

Const. Jason Lohnes testified that he was at the Kings Street West Tim Hortons on Sept. 2 on an unrelated call, when he saw Kirby approach with three dogs on leashes. Kirby tied them to a sign post across the street and went into the restaurant.

Lohnes saw a black dog with white markings on her chest get free. She went into the parking lot of the Tim Hortons and circled a man who had just come out with a tray of beverages. He said the dog kept trying to get behind the man, like a herding dog would do, and bite him on the leg.

Lohnes suggested Kirby get muzzles for his dogs, but said Kirby seemed indifferent to the suggestion.

The officer testified that he told Kirby it could have been a child that had come through the parking lot. He said Kirby dismissed that as "what if."

But soon it was a child.

On Dec. 12, a 14-year-old boy was attacked by two dogs on his way to catch the bus to go to school. A bystander managed to scare the dogs off — albeit briefly. The dogs returned to attack both of them before other people arrived to help.

Michael Kirby's dogs have been described as Louisiana Catahoula leopard dog mixes. The dog in this photo is a purebred.
Michael Kirby's dogs have been described as Louisiana Catahoula leopard dog mixes. The dog in this photo is a purebred. (American Kennel Club)

That attack came within minutes of another involving a pedestrian nearby. The dogs knocked the man to the ground. He testified that if it hadn't been for a female motorist stopping and managing to scare away the dogs, "they might have had me."

By the Dec. 12 incidents, Kirby was already on a court order to keep his dogs on his property at all times, except when he took them for a walk. He was ordered to take them one at a time and keep them muzzled and on leash each time.

Kept a gun hand — just in case

The lead investigator in the case testified in March that Kirby always kept a gun handy in his apartment in case one of his dogs turned on him. She said Kirby told her that he shot one of his dogs in 2015.

Kirby was arrested by police after the Dec. 12, 2018 incidents, and by the time the dogs were removed from his home two days later, one of them was dead and "looked like it was chewed on," according to the testimony of a police officer who was part of a 12-person team assembled to seize the dogs.

The other five dogs were euthanized, the court heard.