A Halifax man has been found guilty of animal cruelty and been banned from owning an animal for three years, after a security camera caught him repeatedly whipping his dog with a leash, causing the animal to suffer “undue anxiety.” For the first time in the province’s history, the man was convicted of causing the animal mental distress, rather than physical harm, and was found guilty on those grounds alone.

This article contains graphic content that might not be suitable for some readers.


In October 2018, 31-year-old Adam DeCoste was charged with causing his dog to be in distress, contrary to the Animal Protection Act of Nova Scotia. In a security-footage video recently released by the Nova Scotia SPCA, DeCoste can be seen spilling his drink, before violently pulling on his dogs leash, causing her to slide across the floor.

DeCoste then goes on to violently and repeatedly whip the husky-breed across the face and body with the leash, before calmly walking away with the animal behind him.

According to Jo-Anne Landsburg, who is the chief provincial inspector with the Nova Scotia SPCA, this case is the first of its kind in the province. Rather than being convicted for the physical abuse that the man caused to the dog, he was convicted on the basis that he caused the animal mental suffering and anxiety.

Speaking in a news release, Landsburg explained, "This particular case is unique because it's taken into account the suffering and anxiety that the animal endured during this incident."

While in Nova Scotia it is common to get an animal cruelty conviction if there is physical evidence that an animal has been abused, proof that an animal has suffered mentally is hard to come by. Landsburg explained that a broken bone, surface wounds or even malnourishment can prove how an animal has been mistreated, yet mental scars have no physical trace.

While the husky from the security footage seemed to have no physical injuries from the attack, Nova Scotia SPCA were determined to ensure the owner would be prosecuted. 

Landsburg said, “Fortunately, we were able to secure an expert witness from B.C. who was able to give scientific evidence, based on her expert knowledge, that this dog did suffer in this instance and would continue to suffer if the animal was left in the custody of the abuser."

The expert drew on the dog’s physical reactions during the abuse, noting that she cowered away from DeCoste, put her tail between her legs, pinned her ears back and tried to escape and get away from him. This, the expert witness concluded, was evidence that the husky was suffering from fear, anxiety, mental distress, and physical pain.

Thankfully, Sophie the husky has now found a new, loving family, and is thriving in her new home. Despite her ordeal, the SPCA says she is doing well and has not had lasting trauma from her experiences.

Last week, DeCoste pleaded guilty to animal cruelty under the Animal Protection Act. He has been banned from owning animals for three years and has been fined $1,000.

Disclaimer: The husky cover image for this article is for illustrative purposes only.


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