Protestors gathered outside Kelowna Law Courts Tuesday

Protesting alleged pet killer

Protestors gathered outside Kelowna Law Courts on Tuesday afternoon calling for strong penalties in the case of 20-year-old Leighton Labute, who is charged with six counts of animal abuse. 

Labute was scheduled to appear Tuesday afternoon, but that was pushed to Sept. 15. 

The Kelowna man made headlines in May 2020 when he was arrested for alleged animal cruelty relating to offences prosecutors say happened one year prior. 

Charges include three counts of killing or injuring an animal and three counts of causing unnecessary pain/suffering to an animal.

It later came to light that Labute's social media accounts featured hundreds of disturbing images of clay sculptures depicting sexual violence, gore and rape.

Protest organizer Bodreay Fraser gathered a small crowd outside the court on Tuesday afternoon, hoping to inform as many people in the community of the situation as possible. 

She says her biggest concern is that if strong measures aren't imposed now, it could lead to bigger and more violent crimes. 

"I really hope the lawyers, the judges that walk in can see this is something that matters. It’s horrific acts that he allegedly caused, but with the video proof and with his gruesome Instagram and media accounts that depict hundreds of images of claymation, rape, torture, murder … it’s one of those things that, people who start with animals don’t usually stop there. 

"Obviously I can’t say that would happen for sure but obviously he needs some psychiatric help and the justice system needs to step up, because the lives of animals matter too and keeping our community safe should be our priority." 

Fraser, who says she lives on the same street as Labute, says she hopes people don't look up the Instagram and other social media accounts Labute has, as "some things can't be unseen." 

Mother-and-son duo Doris and Paul Steigenberger also attended the protest, calling for changes to laws concerning domestic animals being purchased in stores. 

"If you buy an animal in the store, nobody is asking what are you doing with it, how’s the home, do you have enough knowledge about it," says Doris, "and I think this happened with him. He could buy animals and nobody questioned him."

Her son, Paul, who is 11 years old and owns four fostered guinea pigs, says he's encouraged Labute's case is being dealt with and made an example of.

"It’s just so cruel that people can just buy [an animal] for $30 or so and then the animal has no right to choose for their own life, so they can do anything they want with it and no-one will really care about it, so I’m really excited that he’s going in front of court because of that." 

Protestor Gabby Edblad also raised calls for Labute's social media accounts to be taken down by the court, in hopes it will prevent any further encouragement of behaviour similar to the alleged acts. 

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