Iqaluit pit bull owner jailed 16 months on assault convictions
“I’m sorry for all this, and I’m going to try to change my life around once I get out”
An Iqaluit woman who used her pit bull dog as a weapon to assault other people received a 16-month jail sentence Aug. 28 after entering guilty pleas to a variety of charges.
Saata Koochiajuke, 23, was convicted on charges arising from three separate incidents relating to her dog, the last of which left a 29-year-old Iqaluit woman with wounds all over her body.
She pleaded guilty to:
• aggravated assault of a peace officer;
• aggravated assault;
• assault with a weapon;
• uttering threats;
• resisting arrest; and,
• two counts of failing to comply with a probation order.
According to the agreed statement of facts, the first incident happened at 10 a.m. June 2.
After a night of drinking, Koochiajuke let her dog loose but was too intoxicated to keep the dog away from other people around her residence, located in the 200 block of housing units near The Snack restaurant.
When bylaw officers arrived, one officer tried to subdue the dog with a tranquilizer dart.
Koochiajuke leapt to the dog’s defense and assaulted the officer, preventing him from firing the tranquilizer gun.
She was held in custody for the day after the incident.
The second incident occurred July 5, again in the morning when Koochiajuke arrived home after a long night of drinking.
A cab driver, Duane Caza, was taking a break in his cab while parked outside the Snack at around 7 a.m.
He noticed the dog roaming freely around the street and accosting a woman. The woman felt threatened and started throwing stones at the dog to keep it away.
This, however, irritated the dog. The woman ran for cover when the dog persisted, seeking shelter in Caza’s taxi cab.
Then, Koochiajuke showed up to retrieve the dog, still heavily intoxicated.
Caza told Koochiajuke to “tie your dog up,” a remark to which Koochiajuke took offense.
She opened the taxi door, and commanded the dog to attack the two people sitting in the cab.
The dog jumped into the taxi, and after a scuffle with the dog inside the vehicle, Caza managed to get free of the dog, suffering several scratches and puncture wounds.
He managed to trap the dog inside the taxi, while he and the woman fled to the Snack, where they called the RCMP.
By that time, Koochiajuke had freed the dog from the cab. And when Caza walked out of The Snack, Koochiajuke commanded the dog to attack him.
Caza was then forced to climb onto the roof of his vehicle for safety while the dog roamed around it — Koochiajuke stood close to the cab, laughing at him.
Afterwards, the RCMP detained Koochiajuke and Iqaluit bylaw officers detained the dog.
After the woman and the dog were released, another attack occurred 10 days later, at Koochiajuke’s residence, building 240.
Shortly after midnight July 15, Koochiajuke’s neighbour, Annabella Piugattuk, 29, heard noises outside her apartment, located inside a three-story building.
Piugattuk, who had complained about Koochiajuke’s dog for months, walked outside to confront the woman about the dog.
Koochiajuke, heavily intoxicated, engaged in a verbal spat with Piugattuk that turned violent. Koochiajuke jumped at Piugattuk and started wrestling with her.
The dog, tied up on the porch at the time, wriggled free of its restraint and joined in on the attack. The dog bit and scratched Piugattuk, while Koochiajuke punched her in the head and pulled her hair for up to 20 minutes.
Koochiajuke repeatedly ordered her dog to “kill her, kill her” and Piugattuk screamed for help. Several bystanders did not want to get involved in the incidents.
The puncture wounds on Piugattuk were so numerous, there were “too many to count,” Crown prosecutor Barry McLaren said.
There was not one part of her body avoided being harmed by either the dog or Koochiajuke, McLaren said.
When RCMP arrived, they first thought that Koochiajuke was trying to pry the dog off Piugattuk, but quickly realized the opposite.
One RCMP officer pulled Koochiajuke away while another smacked the dog with his baton.
Koochiajuke, after resisting arrest, told Piugattuk from the police vehicle that her dog would “rip her daughter’s face off.”
After RCMP realized that striking the dog with a baton only aggravated it’s mood, they shot the dog with a tranquilizer, and the animal leaped off the porch of the three-story building.
When the dog landed, police shot it dead.
Crown counsel argued that a dog can be used as a weapon, citing a decision by the Yukon Court of Appeal.
Justice Neil Sharkey said it’s a “matter of luck” that the attack on Piugattuk was not more severe, since the dog could have easily punctured her neck, possibly causing death.
Piugattuk went to hospital that night with non-life threatening injuries.
Because of the attack, however, she could not get to work at CBC, and she had to move to another house because of the trauma she endured.
Sharkey considered Koochiajuke’s relatively minor criminal record, which began in 2009. She has been on probation for a separate incident since February 2012.
Koochiajuke had been held in remand for 44 days following her arrest.
Sharkey gave her credit for time served equal to 1.5 day for each day served, which means he deducted two months from her original 18-month sentence.
He sentenced her to one month of jail for the first incident, five months for the second, and 12 months for the attack on Piugattuk. She will serve the sentences consecutively — one after the other.
Koochiajuke was distressed in court, burying her head into the sleeve of her grey sweatshirt and crying.
“I’m sorry for all this, and I’m going to try to change my life around once I get out,” Koochiajuke told Sharkey.
Koochiajuke will serve two years probation after her jail sentence. She is to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, and is forbidden to own a pet during that time.