A Fort St. John woman was accused of burning two dogs at a campsite early in July, but RCMP have only recently released information out of concern for her rights.
“When we’re dealing with something this sensitive sometimes, we are trying to ensure that the accused does get a fair and impartial trial,” said Cpl. Roy Kennedy, the media relations officer for Grande Prairie RCMP. The alleged incident took place at a campground in the city.
Debra Holden, 53, currently awaits her next court appearance, which takes place on Sept. 5 in Grande Prairie. She has been charged with two counts each of injuring or endangering animals and causing animals unnecessary suffering.
“If we were to put it out [immediately], we might have appeared malicious or vindictive,” said Kennedy. “But once it’s on public record or in the courts, sometimes we’re in a better position to answer the questions and release it to the media.”
Since the news hit local social media, public reaction has been strong. There are over 100 scathing comments criticizing Holden on one Facebook page alone. These have included death threats and requests for her home address and name of her employer.
“I think it’s one of those things that we contemplated whether or not we were going to do a news release on it,” Kennedy continued.
“We know that, as a pet owner myself, how we can feel about complaints or investigations such as this – once it did get into the courts and people in the media started asking then we can answer those questions,” he said.
The RCMP responded to a complaint at the Nitehawk Recreational Area near Grovedale, Alberta at approximately 11:40 a.m. on July 7, and immediately proceeded to the campground to investigate.
Upon arrival, they found the remains of a dog and kennel burning in a fire pit at a campsite stall.
Holden was “immediately arrested and taken into custody.”
Investigating officers allege that she was under the influence of alcohol when they arrived on the scene.
Police believed that the accused and her partner “might have had an argument, which resulted in the partner leaving the area.”
Witnesses said that another dog may have also been injured in the incident, but subsequently ran from the campsite into a “densely wooded area,” according to the RCMP.
Police searched for the dog, but were unsuccessful. They believe that the dog “would have died from its injuries.”
Officers located the remains of the “small dog” in the fire and removed them. It has been sent to Saskatchewan for a post-mortem examination.
Holden is currently released on a recognizance with conditions, including a restriction on owning or possessing any dogs.
Kennedy said these kinds of cases aren’t common in Grande Prairie.
“Thankfully it’s not a common investigation that the members have to go to,” he said. “I think it shows that when we do get them, we treat them very seriously and we respond to them immediately.”