The B.C. SPCA says 20 counts of animal cruelty have been laid against Chilliwack Cattle Sales, one of Canada's largest dairy farms, and seven of its employees.

Allegations of cruelty first surfaced in June 2014 when the non-profit group Mercy for Animals Canada released a video shot by a former employee of the farm showing dairy cows being whipped and beaten with chains and canes, as well as punched and kicked.

"We immediately launched an investigation into the case and recommended charges against the employees identified in the video and the company," said Marcie Moriarty, the BC SPCA's chief prevention and enforcement officer.

The Criminal Justice Branch said the charge assessment process took as long as it did because of the number of people accused, the complexity in assessing the evidence, and the nature of the initial investigation.

Soon after the allegations surfaced, B.C. adopted the national code of practice for the care and handling of dairy cattle. Penalties are now in place for anyone convicted of causing distress to an animal. The maximum penalty is $75,000 and up to 24 months imprisonment.

Maximum sentences for each count under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (PCAA) is a fine of up to $75,000, up to two years in jail and a possible lifetime ban on owning animals. Employees charged under the Wildlife Act, could face on a first conviction, a fine of up to $100,000 or a term of imprisonment not exceeding one year, or both.

The Crown says 16 of the 20 charges are under the PCAA for various acts of cruelty against the farm's dairy cows, while four of the counts are under the Wildlife Act for "molesting a pigeon."

Company employees Travis Keefer, Jonathan Talbot, Jamie Visser, Chris Vandyke, Cody Larson, and Brad Genereux, and Lloyd Blackwell are facing various charges, including causing distress to an animal and failing to care and protect an animal from distress.

Jeff Kooyman, who co-owns the farm with his siblings, had previously stated he and his family were devastated by the accusations and he had no idea such cruelty was happening on his property.

The accused are scheduled to appear in court on April 12.