Dogfighting case:Man pleads guilty, charges against spouse dropped, two others still face charges

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One man accused in an alleged dog-fighting ring will receive four months of house arrest after pleading guilty in a courtroom here Thursday.

Robert Tomlin appeared with his attorney, Frank Retar, who made a joint submission for the sentence with assistant Crown attorney James Boonstra.

Candice Johnson, a co-accused who is in a relationship with Tomlin, had her charges withdrawn.

Evidence heard is protected under a publication ban, as the case is ongoing against other accused individuals.

Justice Paul Kowalyshyn accepted the joint submission, which also included a lifetime ban for Tomlin on owning an animal, or residing with one, as well as two years of probation.

He also must provide a DNA sample to the databank.

Tomlin was charged last year with two counts of cruelty to animals.

Kowalyshyn said many in the public would find the defendant’s actions “the lowest of the low,” adding the dogs had no choice.

“It is nothing to be proud of,” he said.

Retar submitted that his 33-year-old client and Johnson have a young child, and said Tomlin wouldn’t be a danger to the public.

Boonstra added the Crown was content with the joint sentence given the circumstances, but added the offence was “not a simple case of animal cruelty where someone neglected an animal.”

The case came to court as a result of a joint investigation by Chatham-Kent police and officials with an animal-welfare group, the Ontario SPCA.

Officers went to a Morris Line property, near Merlin, on Oct. 9, 2015. Their investigation resulted in more than 500 criminal and provincial-­offences charges for animal cruelty, as well as drugs and firearms offences.

Several of the dogs seized have been sent or will be going to a dog rehabilitation centre in Florida, after the conclusion of a separate legal battle that started when the OSPCA brought an application before the court to have 21 of the dogs euthanized.

A preliminary hearing was held for the other accused, John Robert and Michel Gagnon, earlier this month, with the case slated to return to court in September.

Outside the courtroom, Boonstra said the OSPCA provided input to the Crown. “When we were talking about resolutions, they were part of that discussion,” he said.

Although there were no protesters visible on Thursday, they have attended previous court dates.

Boonstra said he understands the strong emotions the public feels on the matter.

“I don’t think anybody’s happy with this case,” he said. “Nobody likes to hear about animals being abused or mistreated, or made to fight. . . . I don’t think anybody’s happy with our result. But it has to come to a result at some point.”

Chatham Daily News 

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