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Case going to court after 177 animals seized last fall on Vancouver Island

Owners face charges of causing pain and suffering to animals
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Court proceedings are set for May 28 after 177 animals were confiscated from a property in Ladysmith last fall. (File photo/B.C. SPCA)

B.C. SPCA officers seized more than 175 animals last fall on Vancouver Island in one of the largest animal seizures in the province’s history, and the case goes to court this month.

Among the animals confiscated in Ladysmith on Oct. 31 were 13 dogs, three cats, 14 goats and 31 chickens. An additional 31 chickens, three cats and 12 dogs were voluntarily surrendered. On Nov. 16, the B.C. SPCA came back and confiscated another dog, a cat, a rabbit, two snakes, 28 chickens, four ducks, 31 quail and 48 rats.

While in the SPCA’s care, officers were required to euthanize a goat and quail that were in critical stress.

Now the owners of the animals face charges of causing unnecessary pain or suffering to an animal. The couple is expected to make their first court appearance in Duncan on Tuesday, May 28.

Eileen Drever, B.C. SPCA senior officer of protections and stakeholders relations, said that the couple is currently out on bail conditions that stipulate they are not to have custody or control of any animal.

“When the animals were seized the charges were submitted,” Drever said. “Because it was such a large seizure it takes some time to gather all the evidence.”

READ MORE: Animals in distress seized from property near Nanaimo Airport

The animal owners previously attempted to appeal the seizure with limited success. In January, a hearing was held with the couple requesting a return of a select number of the animals. A B.C. Farm Industry Review Board largely rejected the request, with the exception of the two snakes, which they found did not appear to be in distress at the time of the seizure.

“The panel notes that many of the animals had health issues related to inadequate shelter, management, and sanitation, such as the respiratory disease in the poultry, bite wounds in the rats, and intestinal parasites in the goats,” the document read. “The appellants did not provide evidence on how these overcrowding-related health issues would be corrected and prevented if the animals were returned.”

The couple was ordered to pay just over $88,000 to the SPCA for the costs of caring for the animals. Additionally, the SPCA was permitted to care, re-home or euthanize the animals at its discretion, with the exception of the snakes. The panel ordered the snakes to be returned if the couple paid $1,280 within six days to the SPCA. Drever told the News Bulletin that the fee was not paid in that time frame and as a result, the snakes were not returned.

From the appeal documents it was revealed that authorities visited the property for scheduled checks multiple times before the raid. On Oct. 25, a special provincial constable made note of several concerns during an unannounced visit, alleging that more goats were underweight than noted by a doctor’s check in late September, which accounted for a third of the herd at the time. The constable also reported that “free-roaming chickens had limited access to the chicken building which had wet and dirty bedding. There was an accumulation of feces on perches, and no water or feed was available. Inside the main outbuilding the quail and meat chickens had no water or food available and their bedding needed cleaning. Some chickens were noted to be underweight.”

The constable drew attention to a malamute dog named Neptune that “was tethered in the front yard with an empty water dish” and rabbits without food or water. One rabbit was found dead.

Drever said that should the judge find a guilty verdict, the court can choose to add conditions to ban custody of animals in the future.

The allegations have not been proven in court. The animal owners did not reply to requests for comment by the time of publication.

Drever asks that if anyone sees an animal in distress, they should contact the B.C. SPCA helpline at 1-855-622-7722.