Downtown dog's future uncertain as homeless man awaits court date

Several complaints about treatment of animal but police don't see it as cruelty

Catherine Litt / Kamloops Daily News
February 20, 2013 01:00 AM

A homeless man, who calls himself Jozi, puts a hat on the sidewalk and sits with his dog, Wails, on Victoria Street in this file photo.

A homeless man at the centre of a panhandling debate will be in provincial court Thursday to face charges of assault with a weapon and possession of a weapon dangerous to the public.

RCMP said Tuesday that Timothy Rennie, 54, is in custody at Kamloops Regional Correctional Centre related to a Valentine's Day incident in which he allegedly pulled a knife on someone outside the TNRD Regional Library on Victoria Street.

Rennie, who calls himself Jozi, has maintained a high-profile existence downtown since the summer, panhandling with his faithful companion, a blond mixed-breed dog he calls Wails.

As of Tuesday, the dog's fate was uncertain. Bylaw officers impounded the animal last week and it remains at the City pound.

"In this situation, obviously his actions resulted in the dog having to be impounded," said Jon Wilson, the City's community safety and enforcement manager.

Wilson would not speculate about the dog's future.

It's unknown how long the animal will remain at the pound or how much in fees its owner faces. Impound fees range from $75 to $300, with an additional boarding charge of $12 per day.

"We'll be in contact with the RCMP to find out to what extent the owner will be in (police custody), and then we'll have to take it from there," said Wilson.

RCMP Staff Sgt. Grant Learned said there's no reason at this point to permanently separate Rennie and his dog. While there have been complaints about the man's treatment of his dog filed with police and with Kamloops SPCA, Learned said officers have not found enough evidence to support charges.

"One of the themes that seems to come out is that when he's with his dog he roughhouses with the dog," said Learned.

"I guess the way it's described is he's playing with his dog but it's in a rough way. . . . Now, that doesn't come near the threshold required to support a charge as defined in the (Criminal) Code for animal cruelty."

Kamloops SPCA manager Charleen Holloway said Tuesday her shelter has received "numerous" complaints about Rennie's treatment of his dog, although she would not say if charges are being considered.

Police, meanwhile, say they have gathered sufficient evidence from two witnesses to recommend assault and weapons charges related to the Feb. 14 incident downtown. It's alleged Rennie pulled a knife during an argument with a fellow street person. RCMP are still looking for the alleged victim, whose gender is unknown.

Rennie has a long history of nomadic behaviour. He has been known to police in Saskatchewan, Alberta and B.C. since 1974 and previously lived in Kamloops in the late 1980s.

He has been the subject of several complaints from downtown businesses since September - ranging from aggressive panhandling to loitering.

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