An Army veteran who tried to strangle an RSPCA officer when she
attempted to seize his therapy dog has avoided further jail
time with a suspended sentence in the ACT Supreme Court.
Shane Van Duren, 43, from Canberra, has been reunited with the
Belgian Shepherd, Kalu, which has been part of his therapy
after traumatic experiences during his military service.
He pleaded guilty to the strangulation charge and to an assault
on a police officer during the same altercation after they
arrived at his residence to retrieve the dog.
Outside the court Van Duren said his dog was doing well.
“He’s good. The family are happy,” Van Duren said.
“He’s where he should be, he’s where he belongs.”
But he stopped short of offering any apology to the officers
involved and said it had been dealt with.
The court heard Van Duren had grabbed the RSPCA officer by the
throat as she advanced towards him with a can of capsicum
spray, tried to disarm her and later threatened to kill her.
His lawyer Louise Taylor told the court he acknowledged his
role in the incident.
“It’s accepted it was a serious incident,” Ms Taylor said.
“He accepts it was he who escalated the situation.”
But Prosecutor Anthony Williamson told the court Van Duren was
a war veteran and trained soldier and this was an attack on a
woman who he later threatened to kill.
He said the officer had gone there under the Animal Welfare Act
powers, and the attack on her had been serious.
Ms Taylor told the court Van Duren had felt a great sense of
injustice after earlier dealings with the RSPCA.
“He felt quite desperate at the concept of Kalu being seized
… and the concept of Kalu not being available on a daily
Veteran cut through RSPCA fence wires to retrieve dog
The court heard that weeks earlier a member of the public had
taken the dog to the RSPCA.
Van Duren later went on to break into the shelter by cutting a
wire cage and freed the dog.
He later announced what he had done on Facebook, and was
identified on CCTV, which prompted the visit from the animal
welfare officers and police.
Chief Justice Helen Murrell agreed the attack on the RSPCA
officer had a significant impact, particularly psychologically.
She also noted Van Duren had felt he was unreasonably targeted
by the RSPCA, and that officer in particular.
Chief Justice Murrell said the crime was at the moderate to
high level of seriousness, but acknowledged Van Duren had spent
46 days in custody already.
Van Duren will now serve a two-and-a-half-year suspended
sentence, with 200 hours of community service.