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Sunshine Coast resident fined after shooting neighbour’s dog

Fined for shooting dog

More than three years after a nine-month-old husky named Luna was shot and killed in Halfmoon Bay, a 71-year-old man has pleaded guilty to violating the Wildlife Act. 

In Sechelt Provincial Court on Feb. 21, Craig Anthony Heffernan entered a guilty plea to shooting what he believed to be a coyote not in open season, contrary to the Wildlife Act. The Crown prosecutor Jim Cryder and defence counsel Darcy Lawrence gave the judge a joint submission on sentence (meaning they both recommend the same sentence). 

Judge Robert Hamilton heard that Heffernan believed he saw a coyote stalking the chickens while they were foraging on his property approximately three hours before the shooting on Dec. 20, 2020. In the months before the incident, approximately 10 of his chickens had gone missing, and the defence counsel said Heffernan didn’t know what was killing his chickens. At around 3 p.m., Heffernan saw what he believed to be a coyote coming toward his flock. He discharged a pump action shotgun two or three times, inflicting fatal injuries. Although the dog was rushed to a veterinary clinic, she died from her injuries.

Heffernan did not have a licence for the shotgun nor a B.C. hunting licence. The incident took place in a no-shooting area and within 100 metres of another residence. The Crown counsel also said the type of ammunition was not the proper type for hunting a coyote, and that the dog had a couple dozen pellets in it.

The Crown’s position is that the animal was not a menace at the time of the shooting, and the defence agreed. The prosecutor told the judge that two to three discharges in an area where people live, by a person who doesn’t have any training, poses a serious threat to public safety. He added that the dog suffered greatly. The defence told the judge the shot was in a direction away from the residence.

At the sentencing, Heffernan expressed his remorse. The defence said Heffernan hopes his neighbours can forgive him and accept that he did not intentionally take Luna’s life. The Crown counsel noted that by entering a guilty plea, Heffernan relieved the neighbours of the burden of having to appear as witnesses in a trial. The Crown also considered Heffernan’s cooperation with the investigation, how he provided a full statement and his remorse as mitigating factors. During the court proceedings, Heffernan said he hopes he and his neighbour can return to something approaching the friendly relationship they once had. 

The defence counsel described Heffernan as an active community member who would never knowingly shoot a dog. Since the incident, the defence said Heffernan has been the target of significant vitriol online and in person. 

Judge Hamilton noted the case is “shrouded in emotion” and commented that the guilty plea is saving the court a lot of time. 

The judge ordered Heffernan to pay a fine of $500, a contribution of $2,000 to the Habitat Conservation Trust Fund, and a $2,500 restitution to the owners of the dog. Heffernan will also be prohibited from possessing a firearm or ammunition for four years and prohibited from hunting for four years. 



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