A man who had 46 dogs seized from his property north of Williams Lake has lost his appeal to have 10 of those animals returned.
In the matter between Terry Baker and the BC SPCA, the B.C. Farm Industry Review Board, which reviews appeals under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, stated Baker would be unable to prevent his dogs from returning to a situation of distress if they were returned to him. The panel gave its reasons in a 35-page written decision dated April 16.
The BC SPCA seized the dogs on February 22 citing issues of a lack of shelter, veterinary care, hygiene and troublesome behavioural issues.
At the time the society said most of the dogs were undersocialized and could not be touched by humans.
“We cannot think of any condition or group of conditions that would protect the animals if they were returned to this appellant, and therefore conclude that these animals should not be returned,” stated the panel, following the appeal hearing on March 29.
Baker has not been formally charged in relation to the latest seizure; however, a BCSPCA spokesperson said they are recommending charges of animal cruelty.
In his appeal testimony, Baker said while the situation was not “perfectly ideal,” the dogs were well-fed, happy and none were harmed or abused.
He said things had “got away” from him following the death of his mother, and the seizure was simply a case of bad timing, after he had been sick with the flu.
Two people testified in support of Baker, saying that when they had visited the property, the animals did not appear to be in distress.
Previous to his arrival in B.C. in the summer of 2017, Baker had been convicted of animal cruelty involving some 70 dogs in 2016 in Saskatchewan. The sentence included conditions that he was not to own or possess more than 10 dogs, six horses, or 10 chickens, with an exception of an additional 20 dogs, horses or chickens under the age of six months.
Prior to the seizure of the animals in February, Baker had voluntarily surrendered 10 dogs in December of 2017 and an additional 10 in January of 2018, from the Cariboo property, 18 of which were euthanized because “their prognosis was so poor as the dogs were unable to live amongst humans,” according to the testimony of Dr. Karen van Haaften, a veterinarian. “These dogs’ conditions were so severe there was a danger to staff and the dogs were unresponsive to treatment.”
In her testimony van Haaften, who attended the February seizure, said all but three of the 46 dogs showed significant fear of people when they were seized, adding that the majority of the dogs would cautiously back up or run away, including the 10-week-old puppies, a trait she said is unusual with puppies of that age.
She also noted a lack of access to food and water via a single food and water source, and that dogs ranged from thin to normal, indicating some dogs may have been more successful than others in regularly accessing food.
Uncontrolled breeding, a lack of health care (indicated by fleas and bloody diarrhea) and environmental concerns were also indicated. Van Haaften reported ammonia levels inside the house of 10-20 ppm, in addition to caked fecal material both inside and outside and a lack of winter shelter for the animals.
The panel called van Haaften’s testimony credible, in addition to the other witnesses called by the BCSPCA.
“We find while [Baker] subjectively believes that he has done his best, and clearly did make some efforts, he minimized the difficulties identified by the society with regard to hygiene and feces,” the panel said.
“We cannot in good conscience conclude that February 22, 2018 was simply a very bad day. Clearly, something more serious, and more long-standing, was at play.”
According to the lengthy decision, at least 24 puppies have been born to the dogs since they have been seized, with more expected.
The panel stated they had little confidence that Baker would spay or neuter the dogs if they were returned.
“Over a 10-year period, despite the appellant’s testimony that he did his best, separated dogs in heat, and he checked them daily, he admitted that he had not one, not two, but 24 unplanned pregnancies, resulting in 24 unwanted litters being born,” the panel stated, adding Baker had not been successful in finding homes for all of those dogs, as evidenced by the age of many of the dogs seized.
When contacted Wednesday, May 2, Lorie Chortyk, general manager of community relations for the BCSPCA said the society is recommending charges of animal cruelty in relation to the 46 seized dogs.
Chortyk confirmed the BCSPCA is seeing success with many of them.
“They’ve made great progress but the work is ongoing because it will take a lot of time before these animals will be comfortable and equipped with life skills that they need,” she said.
The animals are spread through several SPCA branches in the Interior and the North, so as to maximize resources to work with the dogs. Chortyk said that while branches may have to ultimately make the decision to euthanize some of the animals, they try to do what is in their best interest.
“It is cruel and inhumane to keep animals in a state of terror. With these dogs, if there is any hope they can be rehabilitated all stops are being pulled out to make that happen, but there may be some cases where our vets determine it isn’t in the best interest of the animal. If there is no hope they will get better, those decisions may have to be made.”
She said the SPCA is committed to the animals, and has the senior manager of animal welfare and behaviour overseeing their behaviour modification files.
“They are getting the best care they possibly can. This is going to be a long haul for them.”
In addition to denying Baker’s appeal, the panel found Baker liable to the BCSPCA for costs amounting to $46,666.85 for the costs of care of the 10 animals he was trying to have returned.
In the decision, Baker said he sold the property from where the animals were seized and currently lives in a hotel. He still has one dog, which was not home at the time of the seizure.