2010 Memo Shows: HRM Solicitor Katherine Salsman Said No to Adoption & All Alternatives to Killing Brindi


I wrote a memo to HRM in December of 2010, three months after HRM seized Brindi a second time, two years before a judge declined their request for an order to destroy her. 

    The memo shows that I tried everything humanly possible to get Brindi released. It also reviews and confirms a number of facts that HRM did not dispute at the time and has never disputed point by point since then, to me or the court.

    Here's some of the main facts the memo confirms: 

    1. Brindi never attacked a person. 
    2. Brindi never bit a dog hard enough to leave tooth imprints or tear the skin so that it needed emergency treatment.  
    3. No trainer or vet agreed with HRM that she should be put down. 
    4. Three trainers and a vet who assessed her and knew her strongly oppose putting her down. 
    5. HRM tried to block these assessments from taking place, and then from being shown to a judge. 
    6. HRM had no good reason to seize, impound, or kill Brindi, no matter how you  define "dangerous". 

    I am glad I didn't throw it away, because now it is proof of a couple more things, including:

    • I did not prolong Brindi's time in the pound. 

    • HRM had no reason to keep Brindi locked up at all. Ever.

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    MEMO FROM FRANCESCA ROGIER TO THE HRM SOLICITOR KATHERINE SALSMAN


    December 14, 2010


    Dear Ms. Salsman:

    Here is a summary of your position and points you expressed last Friday in our meeting and in
    other conversations and documents since October.

    • HRM is seeking guilty verdicts on one or more of three charges solely for the purpose of
    obtaining a court order to kill Brindi.

    You rejected my offer to plead guilty on all three charges in exchange for Brindi’s return and
    stated that HRM plans to ask for one dollar fines and seek a court order to destroy my dog.

    Under no circumstances will you, as HRM prosecutor,

    1. Release Brindi pending trial, even on a bond as high as $10,000, which I offered.
    2. Let her go to a foster home pending trial.
    3. Drop the HRM request to put Brindi down.
    4. Let her go back with me to the States (or anywhere else) permanently.
    5. Let her go to another owner, either here or anywhere else.
    6. Make or accept any offer for me to get her back and keep her alive.

    • HRM will return Brindi only if ordered to by a court.

    With regard to your goal as prosecutor, you stated further that:

    Under the law, you are not required to show any grounds for putting Brindi down,* though
    you concede no reasonable court will order destruction of life without sufficiently compelling
    arguments.

    • To that end, you seem to be relying on:

    1. Judge Murphy’s statement on future offences in her April 30 provincial court ruling.

    2. Two vague notions of acceptable grounds for killing a dog: a. “numerous offences” (tried
    or alleged), seemingly independent of factors such as severity or actions of the owner, and
    b. the suggestion that “other solutions” have “not worked.”

    However, with regard to my dog, you do not dispute that:

    • Brindi’s behavior is not a threat to human life. She has never attacked a person. She does not
    even respond to violent physical provocations by humans. In two instances, two years apart,
    adults repeatedly kicked her in the head and body, and they reported truthfully that she did not
    growl, bite, or make any attempt to defend herself.

    • Brindi never caused a serious and/or life-threatening injury to an animal.


    In light of this, I noted that:

    • You dismiss any and all standards widely used in other jurisdictions to determine the fate of
    dogs, including professional findings that they are untrainable or “incorrigible”.

    Your request to the court does not rely on evidence, behavior assessments, and/or legal statute,
    and/or case law, including HRM’s own record of HRM by-law prosecutions since 2007, with
    many cases of owners fined or charges withdrawn for dogs killing animals or attacking people.

    • In your opinion these are of no relevance to HRM’s decision to seek a kill order Brindi, and
    should bear no weight in court, notwithstanding Section 18 of the Criminal Code regarding
    similar offenses, similar sentences.

    • HRM has never at any time “worked with me” on this or any other matter.

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    • You affirmed that public opinion has no bearing on your decisions.

    • While the offences charged are “strict liability offences”, where intent is not at issue, and
    though you did not disclose evidence for it, you suggested I deliberately disobeyed the law. [Ed. note: in court she later conceded that it was unintentional and accidental.]

    • You disagreed that a photo of Brindi moments after seizure evidences her state of great distress,
    even when compared with a photo of her in another setting.

    • You stated it would be too dangerous to release Brindi pending trial, without explanation for
    why all dogs are not seized after being reported for attacking. This includes the Armsworthy
    case of a dog that killed a kitten while at large and out of the owner’s sight.

    You didn’t deny that for two years, HRM violated the Criminal Code’s limits on the detention
    of seized property, but were unconcerned that it is about to violate again.

    • You acknowledged that on Oct. 8 a Supreme Court justice neglected to validate any of your
    arguments against my claim that HRM has no legal authority to hold Brindi indefinitely. While
    he rather inexplicably decided he lacked jurisdiction to hear the matter, he proposed Section
    16.2 of A300 (regarding the poundkeeper) as legal grounds. Your brief did not cite it, but in the
    meeting, you stated, “I’m using it now.” However, it [s. 16] is unlikely to succeed in a future hearing,
    nor would a judge be likely to uphold local law over federal laws on seized property.

    I have pointed out that:

    • This is the third time HRM is trying to kill my dog.

    • This goal is not backed by evidence, statute, or case law. In terms of penalties, the applicable
    law and makes no distinction as to number of violations and calls for fines in all instances.

    Your claim that she is too dangerous to live, or that I am too irresponsible to own her, is
    unsupportable. While leashed and muzzled, Brindi was attacked by seven off-leash and atlarge
    dogs this summer while on public property. She neither provoked nor retaliated. She
    remained under my control and I fended off the dogs. Reliable witnesses observed three of
    these attacks. In all incidents, I was able to regain control of her within seconds.

    Your witness statements suggest impure motives, notwithstanding concern for safety. Leaving
    aside the fact that one works for HRM, and the other is directly related to five of eight HRM
    witnesses in the trial, the evidence indicates a prior interest in Brindi’s death, as Katie Simms
    reportedly urged a third party to report me during the summer.

    Further, on the night of Sept. 14, she immediately voiced a desire to destroy my dog, and statements show that for some time, she and Tyson were too preoccupied in filing a report to notice any marks on their dog. Had an arriving RCMP officer not suggested they examine her, it is unclear when or if they would have. They then spent time photographing the dog rather than attending to her wounds. As a vet later deemed them minor, compelling grounds to destroy Brindi are sorely lacking.

    Judge Murphy’s statements should not be misapplied in this regard. When it comes to
    destroying personal property, there must be compelling grounds based on evidence.

    Furthermore, a fair interpretation of her statements on future offences must consider all of
    honourable judge’s decisions. After declining HRM’s euthansia request, without request or
    explanation, she amended her own ruling that before she would release Brindi, the trainer
    must testify we had completed the training as ordered: when the time came, she simply
    granted release via faxes between her clerk and HRM counsel, without reviewing any details.

    HRM appears to have conceded the point by declining to classify Brindi as a dangerous dog,
    as Judge Murphy recommended.**

    • The trainer, Susan Jordan, supports us fully.

    I do not believe, therefore, that Brindi can reasonably be deemed a danger to humans or
    “public safety”. She poses no greater risk to life and property than any other dog, and in fact, a

    3
    good deal of evidence suggests she is possibly less of a risk than most dogs here. Yet she is
    unfairly held to a higher standard than they, and has been unduly harmed in the process. This
    is arbitrary and cruel. And it would set a very dangerous precedent to destroy her.

    HRM’s inflexible position is unwarranted and unprecedented. I remain confident that if court
    proceedings are conducted fairly, an order for “humane euthanasia” will not result. However, in the unlikely event it does, I have advised you that I will file an appeal and that my lawsuit from 2008 is going forward.

    All indications are that HRM will never be in a position to legally destroy my dog, including section 16.2 of By-Law A300, which is backed by a number of precedents, and unlikely to be struck down by a judge for this purpose.

    I would much prefer having my beloved family member with me now. It is blatantly inhumane for
    HRM to pursue such a goal while impounding Brindi indefinitely. Despite being unlawfully
    evicted by HRM, I am preparing applications for her release. And HRM has compelled me to
    continue with my lawsuit against the municipality for wrongful seizure and such other causes of
    action as malicious prosecution.

    Until my dog and I were targeted under A300, I had no need of courts and lawsuits. I cannot
    answer when people ask if my nationality is a factor for HRM. Like many others, I came here
    because I believe in Canadian social values. Yet certain past remarks from HRM counsel do give me pause, and on Friday, you replied, “I bet you do,” when I mentioned support to file suit from a US jurisdiction. Allow me to assure you, I certainly take no pleasure in any of this. I have done all I can to obtain a fair resolution and I regret that the taxpayers, myself included, bear HRM’s costs.

    Fortunately for me, the SPCA waived Section 18.2 of A300 requiring me to pay boarding fees totaling over $14,000. This should set a precedent for present and future costs, possibly also for other dog owners in my situation. Indeed, Section 18.2 should not apply as long as HRM
    continues to deny proper due process and arbitrarily enforce unjust (and/or non-existent) animal control law.

    In the meantime, I cannot overemphasize HRM´s responsibility for my dog’s health and wellbeing.

    Until she is released to me, should any harm come to her, HRM bears sole liability.

    Sincerely,

    Francesca Rogier



    * S. 208 of the HRM charter, identical to S.177 of the NS Municipal Governance Act. To be
    precise, the law says it is not necessary to give “evidence”. I believe this is not the same as
    “grounds”.

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    ** However, if HRM applied A300’s definitions systematically, every dog would be classified as
    “dangerous” when the owner is guilty of “owning a dog that attacks”, and this might cause a
    problem.

    -----------------------------

    Details on the Memo:
    HRM Legal Services assigned this case to Katherine Salsman, a recent hire in her twenties, in September 2014. She had recently moved here from Toronto.

    I met with Ms. Salsman of HRM for three hours on December 15, 2010 - exactly five years ago -  to ask her to let Brindi go. I proposed five different options in return for me pleading guilty and paying fines. Ms. Salsman said no to everything.

    By then HRM had been holding Brindi for nearly three months again and refused to let the vet, the trainer, or me visit her. And as HRM by-law thugs (sorry they are) had evicted me unlawfully in November, not a coincidence, and members of Council (Dawn Sloane for one) refused to allow me my right of appeal, I was homeless at the time. Me and my cat Amelia. A horrible winter.

    Brindi was the most important thing.

    For three hours, I proposed a number of ways for HRM to resolve the matter satisfactorily and without killing Brindi. Ms. Salsman rejected every single alternative without hesitation or consultation.

    Ms. Salsman was unconcerned that there was no physical evidence of a severe attack. Nobody ever claimed such a thing. She didn't care that trainers and vets were very supportive of Brindi and very sure that her behavior is not likely to escalate into that of a vicious dog.

    It was very clear Ms. Salsman, like her predecessors in the case, was completely uninterested in sparing Brindi and was confident she could get a judge to issue an order to destroy her.

    Destroy my dog, my companion, my only family in this country. A being so sweet that her captors fell in love with her. They never muzzled her at the SPCA pound. They held a birthday party for her and it wasn't even her birthday. They even complained when I finally got her freed from death row in 2010. I know

    Ms. Salsman didn't react at all to the May 2009 SPCA birthday party photo. She had nothing to match or outweigh the opinion of these professionals to make a reasonable justification for taking drastic action against my dog and me.

    As it turned out, Ms. Salsman was wrong. I was right. She did not get an Order to Destroy as she wanted. But since Ms. Salsman did all she could to discredit me, she gave the judge a hint to go a step further and take Brindi away from me and then let HRM, i.e. Salsman, and her bosses, be the one to decide. Some kind of achievement for a lawyer, I suppose, to get more power than the law intends.

    Two friends came with me to that meeting. It was not confidential. It was not about making a deal. I wanted to. Ms. Salsman did not. She did not want to meet at all. She said she wasn't going to negotiate anything. I said fine, I'll talk, you'll listen. A week after that I sent her the memo. Then she wrote back telling me that it was confidential and how she didn't want to have to report me to the judge or something along those lines. Yeah, I don't think so. My friends and I never agreed to confidentiality because Salsman didn't ask for it when we met.

    "Other solutions have not worked." A solution means there's problem needing to be solved. HRM never defined the problem. It would be difficult to prove Brindi is a bigger problem than any other dog. So "have not worked" doesn't mean much given that. But if she were a bigger problem than other dogs, I would say "solutions" is singular, and it worked. The city acted to kill Brindi without trying any solutions. Without investigating if there was a real problem. And if to them, solutions mean the muzzle, well, it worked. She never bit a person or seriously harmed a dog. Something worked. Even if it wasn't on for 18 seconds in 2010 it was on the rest of the time and in those 18 seconds it was I who got control Brindi. And even if I hadn't, she would not have hurt another dog so that it needed to go to the vet. She kind of proved that over the course of the years.

    So why did Ms. Salsman tell a series of judges from 2010 to 2015 that the only "solution" to Brindi was to kill her? I have copies of all the court documents she wrote saying this. Anybody can go to the courthouse and read them. She shifts her emphasis around a bit but once you clear away the brush, she made either no argument or a pretty objectionable one.

    To be honest, I really can't bear to even repeat a lot of these things. Because since 2008, things HRM says in its arguments have shocked and dismayed and then crushed me as time went on. Probably why I tend to repeat a certain amount of the-- well, what I will not ever call a journey. More like slow strangulation.

    Because why is Ms. Salsman talking about adoption? 

    Why talk about adoption now, when she refused to make a deal to adopt Brindi five years ago? 

    Why put me through the heavy lifting of an appeal only to let my dog live after they get my appeal dismissed before a hearing? That is just nothing but mean. Translated into legalese, not a good thing.

    Why now, when she refused other adoption offers and deals to drop my appeal for three years?

    The possible answers are not very reassuring. And after the way these city officials treated Brindi, it's hard to believe they care enough about my poor Brindi's life to bother with the trouble of finding her a good home. Also, I have to wonder what HRM considers a good long-term home. I'm entitled to question this. These people had no concerns about locking up my beautiful sweet dog in a kennel for seven years, and none about the thousands of other people and myself, who were very concerned.

    But all that is secondary, more or less. I have been holding my breath all these years waiting to know if my dog is alive and well, and I still don't know for certain. I only know I've been lied to for a long time.

    Since the whole thing adds up to grand theft dognapping and a life tragedy for me, I can't see why the city doesn't just give her back. At least they can be sure nobody else will ever take care of Brindi like I do. That is, if it is really about finding her a good home.

    I don't want her to go to somebody Animal Services likes. It seems to me such people would naturally feel secure from another wrongful seizure, and so they might not bother to resume specialized training, let alone spend time and money to look after her health. I did it before, I will do it again.

    I am sure Brindi's potential as a high-achieving dog was not lost on the SPCA, the Grahams, and all of Hope Swinimer's people. It's to their eternal shame that they locked her up all these years. By now she would have been an agility champ.



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