Trial begins for Yellowknife lawyer charged with allowing dog to be loose and bite person

Yellowknife Courthouse (CKLB File photo).

A trial began Wednesday in territorial court for a Yellowknife lawyer who is charged under a City of Yellowknife bylaw with letting his dog run loose and a second charge of allowing that same dog to bite a person.

Civil lawyer Doug McNiven was charged last summer after his dog viciously attacked another dog in front of his residence on Finlayson Drive in uptown Yellowknife.

McNiven is not challenging that it was his dog that attacked.

The dog that was badly bitten survived for a couple of days but was eventually euthanized by a veterinarian, court heard.

The owner of that dog, William Chueng, testified that he cut his fingers as he tried to pry the attacking dog’s jaws apart.

Chueng, the first witness to testify, told the court his eight-year-old dog Abby was an Australian Shepherd-Poodle mix and weighed about 15 pounds.

He says he was walking Abby on a leash along with his two other dogs on Aboriginal Day in 2019.

Chueng testified that as he passed in front of McNiven’s house, a much larger, “Pit bull-type dog” bolted out McNiven’s front door, latched its jaws onto Abby’s midsection and would not let go.

He testified that McNiven also tried to separate the two dogs, having success only after McNiven’s daughter sprayed the attacking dog in the face with water.

Chueng told the court that McNiven had told him shortly after the attack that the dog had broken free of its tether.

Chueng also said he knew of the dog, which he described as aggressive in nature, and added that when he had seen that dog outside in the past, he had crossed the street with his own dogs.

He also testified that shortly after the incident, he overheard McNiven’s wife tell her husband that he should not have left the front door open.

He admitted that McNiven offered to pay the vet bills which amounted to about $3,000.

Court heard that bystanders took Abby to the Yellowknife Veterinary Clinic while Chueng took his other two dogs to his home, right around the corner from McNiven’s house.

Chueng said that he then went to the vet clinic to check on his dog before driving himself to the emergency department at Stanton Hospital for treatment of his cut fingers.

Under cross examination, Chueng insisted that the attack took place on the city-owned sidewalk, while McNiven’s lawyer Jay Bran suggested it had actually taken place at the end of McNiven’s driveway.

Bran also suggested to Chueng that he had said to McNiven that he intended to pursue the matter in court but “that money could make it all go away.”

Chueng denied that accusation.

Veteranian Dr. Michael Hughes was second on the witness stand as he described the dog’s wounds.

Bran had already pointed out that McNiven is not charged with letting his dog attack another dog.

McNiven testified in the afternoon in his own defence, saying his dog got loose after breaking its collar. He said the collar had been attached to a cable that was anchored in his front yard.

McNiven also testified that he couldn’t understand why one of the passersby who had intervened was punching his dog in the head while it still had Abby in its jaws.

He also testified that he felt Chueng was trying to “shake him down” by asking what McNiven was going to do for him.

McNiven suggested he felt that Cheung wanted money from him.

The trial is to continue Thursday morning with cross examination of McNiven.

His daughter is expected to testify after him.

McNiven reportedly faces up to a $2,500 fine, if convicted.

The prosecutor, a lawyer for the city, told CKLB she does not expect McNiven to get jail time, if convicted.

He reportedly could get three months in jail, if convicted.

The prosecutor added that the judge has the ability to order the attacking dog be put down.

It’s believed that dog – named Aloha – is no longer in the city.

Chueng had no comment when asked by CKLB following his testimony whether he is suing McNiven.

About the Author

John McFadden
John has been in the broadcast journalism industry since the 1980s. He has been a reporter in Yellowknife since 2012 and joined CKLB in January of 2018. John covers the crime and court beat as well as reporting on other areas including politics, business, entertainment and sports. He won seven national community newspaper awards while he was a journalist with Northern News Services Limited (NNSL). John worked in Ontario before coming North including stints as a TV sportscaster in Peterborough and senior news writer for CBC and CTV in downtown Toronto.