On Campus

Court upholds animal torturer's pet ban

Former Simon Fraser criminology student butchered cat and dog

Kayla Bourque (Handout/CP)

VANCOUVER – A 23-year-old woman who was described by a psychiatrist as an “affectionless psychopath” after she butchered two family pets and expressed a desire to murder a homeless person has lost an appeal of a lifetime ban on owning animals.

Kayla Bourque has also failed to have a series of strict probation conditions lifted that prevent her from being around children or using the Internet.

The gruesome details of Bourque’s case made headlines in January of this year, when the provincial Justice Ministry issued a public warning that a dangerous, high-risk offender had been released and planned to live in the Vancouver area.

Bourque had pleaded guilty two months earlier to charges of causing suffering and unlawfully killing animals, admitting to killing a family cat and dog between 2009 and 2010. She also pleaded guilty to possessing a knife for a dangerous purpose.

Court decisions related to the case describe Bourque as a sexual sadist with antisocial personality disorder who finds joy in torturing and killing animals. She is an “affectionless psychopath” who isn’t able to show affection or concern for others, according to those decisions, and she has expressed no remorse.

Bourque was sentenced to nine months in jail, which was reduced to two months after taking into account time she had already served. After her release, she was placed on three years of probation under a list of 46 conditions, including a ban on owning or being around pets.

The judge also imposed a separate lifetime animal ban under the Criminal Code.

Bourque appealed the lifetime animal ban, though she did not challenge the shorter three-year animal prohibition found in her release conditions.

Her appeal also objected to more than a dozen other probation conditions, including orders to stay away from children, keep off the Internet and obtain approval from her probation officer before starting a new job or education program. She argued those conditions were unfair and would hinder her ability to meet people, find a job and integrate back into society.

But a three-judge B.C. Appeal Court panel largely dismissed Bourque’s appeal, only making slight changes to two conditions to ensure they are less vague.

The court upheld the pet ban.

“Ms. Bourque has a history of killing and torturing animals,” Justice Elizabeth Bennett wrote in a unanimous decision released Wednesday.

“She takes pleasure from this conduct, and has no insight into the harm and suffering she causes these creatures. Her condition is life-long, and is not situational. In my view, there is nothing to support a request for leniency on this prohibition. Ms. Bourque has lost the privilege of having the companionship of animals by betraying their trust in her.”

Bourque detailed how she killed her pets while speaking to a psychiatrist before her sentencing, the Appeal Court decision says.

She admitted killing Molly, the family dog, in September 2009 by hanging the animal. She then dismembered the dog and placed the animal’s head on a stick, videotaping and photographing the killing and taking a photograph of herself standing naked next to the dog’s remains.

She killed the family’s cat, Snowflake, in a similar way in March 2010, the court decision says.

Bourque now lives in a residential setting with 24-hour supervision, the Appeal Court says. She is allowed to leave with an adult supervisor.

Bourque first caught the attention of police while studying criminology at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, east of Vancouver.

She told a fellow student that she had killed and dismembered cats while living in Prince George, where she was raised, before killing her family pets, according to the Appeal Court decision.

Bourque also told the student she wanted to kill a homeless person and was in forensic studies to learn how to evade police.

The student contacted the university’s security department, which subsequently called the police.

Bourque was born in Romania and lived in an orphanage in the Eastern European country until she was eight months old, when she was adopted by a Canadian family living in Prince George, B.C. Her brother was also adopted from the same orphanage.

When she was in her teens, she wrote a violent story in English class and told councillors she was thinking of killing someone at school. She was admitted to a psychiatric ward, according to the Appeal Court decision, where she encouraged two other people to help her attempt to strangle a 12-year-old patient.

She was charged with attempted murder but eventually pleaded guilty to assault causing bodily harm, for which she received two years of probation.

At the time, the psychologist who assessed Bourque predicted she would require supervision for the rest of her life.

“She is a sexual sadist who becomes extremely aroused at thoughts of aggression and torture particularly towards younger children or other vulnerable potential victims,” the psychologist wrote.

—James Keller

Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.