The Taipei District Court on Tuesday set a precedent by allowing four guide dogs to “sit in” on a case involving the blinding of a guide dog last year and the loss of an estimated NT$1 million (US$33,000) training the animal.
The defendant, Chang Shih-chen (張士珍), is accused by the Taiwan Guide Dog Association of damaging the one-year-old dog, named Xanti, and contravening the Animal Protection Act (動物保護法).
Chang had been walking his dog, a shiba inu, and had crossed paths with a woman surnamed Chen (陳), who was walking Xanti in Sindian District (新店), New Taipei City, in September.
The shiba inu, which was not on a leash, ran over to Xanti, barking and biting, the prosecution said, adding that Chang threw his flip-flops at Xanti, hitting its body and left eye, with the second strike causing damage to one quarter of Xanti’s retina.
Xanti was well trained and docile, Chen said during testimony.
Chang said he and his family had received threatening messages after the incident from many anonymous sources — one of which threatened to blind his brother — adding that he and his family were dog lovers.
Chang said in testimony that his dog had been attacked before he threw his flip-flops at Xanti, but the court’s live review of the footage — played in slow motion in court — showed otherwise.
“Oh, is that what happened?” Chang said after watching the footage.
“You tell me. You were there,” the judge replied.
The association brought nine guide dogs to the court. However, Xanti was deemed too young and had to wait outside, and only four animals were allowed into the second-floor courtroom.
People who saw the animals commented on the presence of dogs on the court’s premises — where they are usually not permitted — saying how they were all well-mannered, not making any fuss or barking.
Association dog trainer Yang Shun-chieh (楊舜婕) said Xanti was trained at a center on Japan’s Kyushu Island.
Guide dogs usually begin service when they are two years of age, Yang said, adding that the process of training and feeding them can exceed NT$1 million.
Yang said that after his blinding, Xanti had exhibited signs of fear around people, and the association spent a long time training the animal to overcome this.
The prosecution said Chang showed no remorse whatsoever and suggested the court hand down a heavy sentence.
The court said it would announce its ruling on April 8.