The chief inspector with the Nova Scotia SPCA says a troubling pattern is emerging where pets seized by the organization are being returned to their owners by the body in charge of hearing appeals of decisions made under the province's Animal Protection Act.
Jo-Anne Landsburg said the most recent case involved the return of two dogs to their owner, Duncan Sinclair of Falmouth, by the Animal Cruelty Appeal Board just days after they were seized by the SPCA.
"It's happened before," Landsburg told the CBC's Information Morning.
"We've seen animals that have been seized by the SPCA returned to owners by the board, and where we think it's more or less to suit the owner and not so much for the best welfare of the animal, so that's why this pattern that we're starting to see is becoming very concerning."
Sinclair had 19 dogs on his property when the SPCA received a complaint from the public. Landsburg said the majority of those dogs were in good condition but alleged that six were "really in a bad state."
"I mean severe matting, unable to walk ... pus kind of oozing from their face," she said.
The Animal Protection Act requires the SPCA to work with the owner to rectify the situation, but since Sinclair wasn't present at the time, Landsburg said the organization had no choice but to seize the dogs.
Sinclair has been charged with causing an animal to be in distress and failing to provide adequate medical attention to an animal in his care. He has declined requests for comment.
Landsburg alleged Sinclair hasn't been able to afford basic vaccinations or deworming for any of his 19 dogs.
She also said Sinclair has claimed to be breeding dogs to pay for winter wood but she added the possible financial impact of the SPCA's seizure shouldn't be a factor in whether to return the animals.
Landsburg said she doesn't condemn someone for trying to make a living, "however, if you're going to do that, you need to take the animal's welfare into consideration."
Sinclair is due in court in October to answer to the charges. Landsburg said while it is a concern the appeal board's decision could influence the court case, the charges laid relate to the condition of the dogs when they were found.
"We just have to prove that this situation happened at that time," she said.
Of the four dogs remaining in the SPCA's care, Landsburg said three will be put up for adoption after "extensive surgeries," including procedures to treat cleft palates. The fourth has only one viable limb and will be euthanised.
"It's a very sad situation," said Landsburg.
Trevor Lawson, chair of the Animal Cruelty Appeal Board, did not respond to requests for comment.With files from CBC's Information Morning