Bud Wheatley, owner of PuppiesAcrossCanada.com, was sentenced to five months in jail Tuesday for causing unnecessary pain, suffering or injury to animals.
Wheatley, 62, was also ordered by a provincial court in Charlottetown to pay a $200 fine and cover $68,000 in expenses incurred by the provincial Department of Agriculture during both the seizure of the animals and their care. He's also prohibited from owning any companion animals for 10 years with the exception of his 13-year-old dog Sacha.
He told the court he had a hard time keeping staff and couldn't sell enough animals.
"He knows that he was ultimately responsible for the situation that led to the problems with the animals in his care and is remorseful it got to the point it did," said Wheatley's lawyer, Brenda Picard.
Wheatley had been facing five criminal charges and two under the provincial Companion Animal Protection Act in connection with a raid by RCMP officers on his place of business on P.E.I.'s North Shore in October 2009. He pleaded guilty early Tuesday to one criminal charge and one under the provincial act.
About 80 cats and dogs were seized in the raid and taken to the P.E.I. Humane Society for treatment. Some were emaciated, two had to be euthanized and one died before it could be treated.
"Almost every furry animal was severely matted, there was filth," said Crown attorney Lisa Goulden. "Many of the animals had infections, ear infections, ear mites; some of the animals had lice. A lot of the animals showed lack of grooming, their nails were too long. The kennels themselves were coated with feces and urine."
Judge calls case 'incredible'
Officials said the animals were kept in a storage shed in packed kennels stacked three high. There was little ventilation and poor lighting. The animals received no exercise and their food and water dishes were dirty.
Wheatley had previously operated the pet store Snookums in Charlottetown, and was in the news with customers complaining that dogs they bought from him were seriously ill. Wheatley blamed the customers, saying he sold only puppies.
Wheatley closed Snookums about three years ago, and went on to operate PuppiesAcrossCanada.com.
"We know now that what happened to those animals was a crime and it was punished and the full force of justice system was shown today," said Kelly Mullally, executive director of the P.E.I. Humane Society.
Judge Nancy Orr called this case "incredible" and said she found it surprising that Agriculture Department officials allowed Wheatley to operate for 15 months without a licence, even though inspectors visited his operation.
The court heard the department is reviewing training for its staff and the way they conduct their inspections.