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Standing up for Cougie

|Written By Yamri Taddese

You don’t want to mess with a lawyer’s dog, at least not John Cram’s dog Cougie.

Cram, a former lawyer living in Nova Scotia, has launched “a blitzkrieg of litigation” against a local vet and his veterinary association after the vet prescribed painkillers to Cougie without first examining the dog, according to the recent decision from the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal.

The decision says Cram had left Cougie, who is, “by dogs’ standards, is a senior citizen,” with a caregiver while he went on a trip. Upon noticing Cougie was unwell, the caregiver called Dr. Michael Howlett, who prescribed the painkillers, according to the ruling.

Upon his return, Cram complained to Nova Scotia Veterinary Medical Association about the prescription, which he said preceded an evaluation of the pooch. When the association dismissed the complaint, the former lawyer applied for a judicial review.

He then appealed the decision of a case management judge to the court of appeal after taking issue with the dates chosen for the judicial review hearing.

“In reality, this vet’s attempts to help Cougie have turned into a litigation battlefield, pockmarked with motions, civil actions, and private prosecutions too numerous to count,” wrote Nova Scotia Court of Appeal Justice Edward Scanlan, who dismissed Cram’s appeal of the case management judge.

“This Court will not interfere with something as basic as the Supreme Court setting hearing dates. The setting of those dates in no way impacts the merit of the complaints or the review. Scheduling, as I noted above, is an essential aspect of the Supreme Court’s inherent and statutory authority,” Scanlan added.

“The fact that there has been no substantive disposition by the lower court leads me to conclude that Mr. Cram has simply seized upon the fact that Justice [Arthur] Pickup did something, anything, as a basis for yet another legal step,” said the ruling.

Cram tells Legal Feeds he will be seeking leave to appeal the decision at the Supreme Court of Canada. He is basing it on the assertion the court system in Nova Scotia is biased against him because of his 1994 conviction for contempt of court.

A note on the web site of the Law Society of British Columbia, of which Cram was a member, says he had acted in an “intemperate and disrespectful” manner toward a presiding judge at the time.

Two decades later, “The entire Nova Scotia court is institutionally biased against me because of that and they’re being vindictive,” says Cram, adding there have been numerous examples of this bias.

Cram says he is also appealing to the SCC on the basis that opposing counsel in this case is married to a judge in Nova Scotia, which he says led to partial treatment in his case. According to Cram, part of the prejudice against him within the courts is also due to the fact that he is not a Nova Scotia native.

Cougie is still alive, although not completely recovered, according to Cram, who says the dog had been suffering from an infection when she was prescribed the painkillers without assessment.

“If you put it in human terms, imagine you’re sick and your doctor, without even seeing you or without even talking to you on the phone, but just using the receptionist, prescribed some painkillers for you,” he says.

Cram believes porcupine quills had gotten under the dog’s skin and caused the infection. No vet in his area considered this might be the case although the area is thought to be “the porcupine capital of the world,” says Cram.

Marjorie Hickey, counsel for the Nova Scotia Veterinary Medical Association, says Cram has chosen to bring many motions in this matter.

“The motions that he brought to date have really been without foundation, so we certainly agree with the Court of Appeal decision.”


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