From 2019 to 2021, headlines across Newfoundland and Labrador told the story of a cat named Mittens, who was killed with an axe. The case was brought to provincial court, and resulted in convictions.
Leading the charge in getting
justice for Mittens was Velda Tapp, President of Shadow Rescue Group, which can be found on its Meta
page, In Memory of Shadow emergency vet care fund, and once again, Tapp has stepped forward to advocate for an animal that was somehow able to survive a vicious assault.
On June 4, 2023, Misty, a beautiful 10-year-old husky, was stabbed 19 times and left for dead. Fortunately for Misty, she was able to survive her ordeal, but not without her
share of scars.
“This paramedic named Ben was the one that stepped in and took the dog. He took the dog to the vet
in Stephenville, Dr. (Jessica) Boyd, who said she was stabbed 19 times, one of her ribs was fractured and her lung was punctured. We’re not sure how she ever lived, but she lived. She was 50 pounds and now
she’s down to 34. She’s a very good dog. She’s a very well behaved dog,” said Tapp. “The report says that people in Burgeo heard the dog screaming outside of the house. It was that bad. I don’t know Ben’s story, I don’t know how Ben got there. I don’t know if Ben went by ambulance or how he took this dog, but
he took it to Stephenville and he gave them his credit card to pay for it and it ended up being like, $2,600 or something, and he just said, ‘let her live,’ and because of Ben, the paramedic, she’s alive”
The people of Burgeo also immediately stepped in to help.
“They’d done a fundraiser and raised enough money to pay Ben back and he had a little over $800 left afterwards, so they asked me what to do with that. I said, ‘we’ll give it to the Stephenville vet under her name,” said Tapp. “We got her spayed and she got all of her vaccines, and just in case she were to get an infection or to pay for the medication that she’s on. She’s on Trazodone, I think it’s called, a calming medication, and she was on 150 milligrams, a huge amount.”
The exact story behind the attack hasn’t been verified, but based on Misty’s behaviour while under the
care of the rescue, Tapp believes that her mistreatment likely began well before the attack. Tapp said
that Misty was showing signs of aggression over water.
“I’ve never seen an animal like that. I’ve seen a lot of animals very hungry. I’ve seen them almost choke trying to eat their food and watch, frightened that somebody’s going to take it, but never fight for
water. So she was in that mode. She didn’t know.”
The ferocity of the attack is something Tapp can’t understand.
“You’ve got to process this through your brain over and over and over and it was like, anybody that watches those movies on TV and hearing all these or stories, nobody stabbed somebody 19 times,” said Tapp. “You have a man who gets in a fight, stabs somebody once or something like that, before they come to their senses, or they shoot, but they don’t keep shooting 19 times. Like 19 times before he let her go, and how come the dog didn’t turn on him? She must have tried to get away from him because the wounds were from her neck right to her back hip.”
Tapp believes the punishments for those convicted of animal cruelty aren’t severe enough to serve as a
true deterrent and wants to see the law updated.
“I spent two and a half years in a courthouse fighting for Mittens. I went to every court that there was, and I studied the laws, and it says maximum of five years in prison. Now, once you stab a dog 19 times, that means you deserve five years in prison. You need rehabilitation, you need counseling. You need to do something with yourself, but in this case, nothing was done. Will he attack again?” said Tapp. “Why is there a penalty of five years when nobody ever gets the maximum and only get about six months? They tell me if you give any more than six months, then the person, the criminal, has a right to come back and appeal because everybody else got six months and that person got five years, so you’re invading their rights.”
Despite everything she went through, Misty’s future looks bright.
“After I told this story, we had calls from Alberta on, but I mean, I couldn’t put her on a plane with strangers that I don’t know and a long flight. I don’t know if she would make it or not. I just said, no,
I wouldn’t put her through that,” said Tapp. “We must have had about 30 applications for her. A lot of good people, a lot of wonderful people came forward that I would love to have given her to, but this one particular one stood out. She had lost her dog, and she’s a single woman. She actually took holidays to pick Misty up and spend two weeks with her before she goes back to work and when she does go back to work, she’s got a friend in the same community that will be seeing to Misty while she’s away so that she’s not alone. I wanted her to be able to walk and enjoy the beaches and live a quality life with a person that needs her as much as she needs them, and then I found this young woman.”
Even though it’s difficult to hear these kinds of stories, to witness what the animals have endured, Tapp remains committed to this type of volunteer work.
“I guess your skin gets tough and it makes me so angry that it continues, and each story that you hear, just since Mittens alone, is crazy. Mittens was supposed to have been one of the worst cases of animal abuse on the island. So what is Misty? She lived to tell the tale. She’s going to have a life. I mean, she’s
adopted. She’s going to be a queen. She’s going to love the time she’s got left, but she’s ten years old. She mustn’t even know she’s coming or going… I don’t understand why she didn’t bite him. I don’t understand how she didn’t turn on to him and tear the pieces right out of him,” said Tapp. “Basically I just work one job now instead of two… I’m working two instead of three, I should say, and I’m kind of semi-retiring after next year, I think. Just going to slow down and my focus is going to be my retirement. I will be focused on changing the laws, and I’m figuring out from all of these people that I got to meet through Mittens, when we had the rallies, we did all these things, we did these petitions, door to door signatures, nothing changed. Nothing ever changes. Nobody ever listens, but you know what? One of those days somebody’s going to listen because I can’t let it go.”
A spokesperson for the RCMP issued the following statement.
” The RCMP confirmed that an urgent call for service in Burgeo was received on June 2. Officers immediately departed for Burgeo, responded to the incident and learned that a dog was injured. The investigation determined that charges were not appropriate.”
News Value: 4Wreckhouse Weekly News1270 words
By Jaymie White, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Original Published on Sep 11, 2023