Robert Bruce Stewart, 60, outside Byron Bay Courthouse on October 21, 2020 during a hearing where he was defending allegations relating to animal cruelty. Picture: Liana Boss
Robert Bruce Stewart, 60, outside Byron Bay Courthouse on October 21, 2020 during a hearing where he was defending allegations relating to animal cruelty. Picture: Liana Boss

VERDICT: Neighbour intentionally shot puppy with an arrow

A NORTH Coast man has been found guilty of recklessly torturing and seriously injuring an animal.

An Irish wolfhound x malamute puppy, named Bucket, escaped his South Golden Beach property and entered the neighbouring yard belonging to Robert Bruce Stewart, 60, on the morning of Friday, December 6 last year.

Bucket suffered a severe injury as a result of an arrow, which Mr Stewart fired, penetrating his spine.

This left him partly paralysed and on a veterinary surgeon's advice that there was no other option, he was euthanased.

Irish wolfhoud x malamute, Bucket, was about 10 months old when he was severely injured in a bow and arrow shooting in December, 2019. The injury resulted in him being euthanased. Pictured is Bucket with his owner, Kris Thompson.
Irish wolfhoud x malamute, Bucket, was about 10 months old when he was severely injured in a bow and arrow shooting in December, 2019. The injury resulted in him being euthanased. Pictured is Bucket with his owner, Kris Thompson.

Stewart this week defended the cruelty allegation before Byron Bay Local Court, on the basis it was an accident and that he was only trying to shoot a piece of metal to frighten Bucket away from his chicken coop.

In handing down her decision on Thursday, Magistrate Karen Stafford said there were "gaping inconsistencies" in the defendant's evidence, which conflicted with the testimony of "impartial witnesses".

Ms Stafford found Stewart had intended to shoot Bucket, and that even if there was any doubt about this, he was "reckless" as to whether his actions would cause serious harm.

"The prosecution says in this case that Mr Stewart intentionally shot Bucket and was motivated by a hatred of neighbourhood dogs," Ms Stafford said.

"The defendant says Bucket was threatening his chickens … and he only intended to scare Bucket away from them."

 

 

The arrow head remained lodged in Bucket’s spine after he was shot, the court heard.
The arrow head remained lodged in Bucket’s spine after he was shot, the court heard.

Ms Stafford found Stewart's account that one arrow struck dirt, a second struck metal (as he intended) and a third ricocheted off a palm tree and into the dog was "implausible".

She found his claim that the arrow ricocheted "then struck Bucket with such force as to enter his torso, and to enter it far enough to sever his spine" was "so implausible as to not be accepted on any rational basis".

"Even if I accept that account, on his own evidence the dog was nearby and … it would in my view amount to recklessness," she said.

She accepted evidence Bucket was likely jumping up at Stewart's chicken coop, but that he did not enter the coop's open door at any stage.

Ms Stafford also made a finding in favour of the prosecution on evidence which spoke to the relationship between the defendant and the surrounding neighbourhood.

 

Bucket was euthanised after being shot with an arrow at a South Golden Beach property.
Bucket was euthanised after being shot with an arrow at a South Golden Beach property.

 

 

 

"(Witnesses) had a very consistent theme that throughout the time they had known the defendant … he confronted them about what he perceived as the misbehaviour of dogs," she said.

She said Stewart's evidence was "inconsistent" with that of "reliable and impartial" witnesses.

"He deliberately inflicted the severe pain by firing the arrow at Bucket and that was done as punishment for Bucket entering and barking and scratching at the chickens and also as revenge for the accumulation of the acts of neighbourhood dogs," Ms Stafford said.

 

Irish wolfhoud x malamute, Bucket, was about 10 months old when he was severely injured in a bow and arrow shooting in December, 2019. The injury resulted in him being euthanased.
Irish wolfhoud x malamute, Bucket, was about 10 months old when he was severely injured in a bow and arrow shooting in December, 2019. The injury resulted in him being euthanased.

She found he could have taken another "reasonable" course of action, such as yelling at Bucket or throwing a nearby boot at him.

Instead, he "deliberately walked along the veranda to take three arrows out of its holster and fire", the court heard.

"He kept firing until it struck," Ms Stafford said.

"He did not honestly believe it was necessary for him to act in that way. He did not honestly believe it was necessary to protect the safety of his chickens."

Ms Stafford ordered a sentencing assessment report to be prepared and Stewart is due to face a sentencing hearing in December.


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