Cornwall cat abuser pleads guilty

Lance Burgess, 24, shields his face from photographers outside the Cornwall, Ont. courthouse April 15, 2015 after pleading guilty to animal cruelty and break and enter charges. (Cornwall Newswatch/Bill Kingston)

WARNING: The following article contains graphic evidence of animal cruelty and may be disturbing to some readers. Discretion is advised.

CORNWALL – While trying to keep his composure, his leg shaking, a Cornwall man pleaded guilty to nearly killing a cat and abandoning another outside the Brookdale Arms in January.

Lance Burgess, 24, entered guilty pleas to three animal cruelty related charges and as well a count of break and enter in a unrelated incident.

Court heard, in an agreed statement of facts, a tenant had heard crying from a dumpster behind the apartment building on Brookdale Avenue on Jan. 19.

The person found a badly-abused female calico cat sealed inside a garbage bag along with its food dish. Another “cold and shivering” black cat was on top of the dumpster.

Both were taken to the St. Lawrence Valley Animal Hospital where the SPCA paid $1,535.89 in veterinary care to nurse both felines back to health.

The cats’ future home will be decided at the conclusion of this case.

Crown attorney Aquilas Kapend said the injuries to the calico cat amounted to severe head trauma, a bloody eye and the animal was in shock. Kapend added the black cat was thin, hungry and had two broken front claws.

Based on witness statements from various people in the apartment building, the cats had being meowing and crying, causing a disturbance for other tenants. This was due to the fact they had “no food for several days.” Burgess had not been at the apartment for some time, visiting his new girlfriend in other location, the court was told.

The cats ended up in the dumpster after Burgess had disciplined one for peeing on a kitchen stove. Burgess had rubbed the cat’s nose in the urine and then “swatted it,” where it fell to the floor and began doing “the funky chicken.” Crown attorney Kapend says Burgess knew something was wrong and had stomped on the cat’s head to – as he put it – “put it out of its misery.”

Burgess’ lawyer, Gaye Leroux, opened his submission saying any words he would use to defend the actions of his client would be “woefully inadequate.”

Leroux says he – like many in the public – was shocked about the animal cruelty and was surprised that his client was the perpetrator. “(It’s) something I would not expect from him (Burgess),” noting his clients “lengthy, problematic” criminal record during his struggle with substance abuse.

“There’s no excuse for what he did…he’s extremely embarrassed and remorseful,” Leroux added. The defence lawyer outlined the challenges his client has faced, noting Burgess’ parents are “totally disgusted” with him, he has lost his full time job as well as his apartment.

Burgess also addressed the court. “I’m sorry. I know what I did was wrong. It’s something I could have done (handled) differently.”

That embarrassment was evident as Burgess shielded his face from reporters’ cameras as he left the Cornwall courthouse late Thursday afternoon.

The defence is asking for a six month jail sentence for the animal cruelty charges and a concurrent 45-90 day sentence for the break and enter charge.

The Crown is asking for nine months in jail – six months for animal cruelty and a consecutive 90 day sentence for the break and enter. It also seeking restitution for the vet bills.

Both sides are asking for a 10 year animal ownership ban as well as a period of probation.

Judge Franco Giamberardino will deliver his sentence Friday morning at 9 a.m.

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