WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT
After arriving home to find his son’s dog had chewed on his prosthetic leg, Michael Patrick Stewart stabbed the pet in its heart.
It was a brutal killing a magistrate called “largely unexplainable” and “excessive in the extreme”.
On Thursday (3 February), the ACT Magistrates Court heard it was the second time the 69-year-old pensioner, who was caring for his son’s dog, had taken a blade to the cocker spaniel called Louie.
When Louie got into a fight with Stewart’s own pet, a kelpie called Pippa, over food in December 2020, he grabbed a knife and threw it at the dog, not thinking he’d make contact.
“It hit him and struck in him in his side a little bit,” Stewart told the court.
He claimed he wanted to break up the fight by grabbing the first thing available to him, which was the knife. Louie was cut on his hip and had to be taken to the vet.
At the end of December, Stewart went on a two-day trip to Bathurst, taking Pippa with him but leaving Louie behind.
When he returned to his Ainslie home on 1 January 2021, he found Louie had damaged some of his property and had “chewed up [his] artificial leg”.
Stewart claimed he yelled at the dog and tried to make him leave his bedroom, but Louie wouldn’t and bit him on the wrist, so he went and got a knife from the kitchen.
“I thought if he had a go at me I could at least have a go at him back,” he told the court.
He claimed when he tried to make Louie leave the room again he was bitten on the arm, so he stabbed the dog four times including in his heart.
A photo tendered to the court apparently showed the blade of the knife stuck so far into the animal’s body it was almost up to the hilt.
“I just didn’t think. I thought I’d try and protect myself that’s all. It was in self-defence I killed him,” Stewart said.
“I wish it hadn’t happened.”
Duty lawyer Mr Chen said Stewart had owned six dogs over the past 33 years and incidents like this had never happened before, but prosecutor Chamil Wanigaratne said if Stewart had owned dogs all that time then he would realise that sometimes they misbehaved.
“If your response to that is to physically harm the animal, you have no business owning an animal at all,” Mr Wanigaratne said.
“There was no need for this. There were other options.”
He argued what Stewart had done was “atrocious” and the “pain and terror” Louie would have felt just before his death should be taken into account on sentencing.
Mr Chen argued Stewart hadn’t gone into the bedroom with the intention of stabbing the dog, but to try and get him out of there and carried the knife with him as a “back-up”.
“I’m struggling to understand how the knife would be a useful tool to getting the dog to comply,” Magistrate Louise Taylor remarked at one point during the discussion.
She said it was a small breed that didn’t otherwise pose a physical threat to Stewart and the stabbing was deliberate and repeated.
Pippa was removed from his care on the day of the stabbing, which the court heard had left him lonely.
Stewart pleaded guilty to charges of aggravated cruelty to an animal causing death as well as throwing something at an animal.
He was sentenced to three months’ jail, fully suspended for a 10-month good behaviour order, and fined $350, while also banned from owning animals for five years, although this was backdated to the date he lost custody of Pippa.