British Columbia

Owner of 70 dogs seized in Saskatchewan loses dozens more in B.C.

Months after moving provinces in the wake of an animal cruelty conviction related to the seizure of 70 dogs, a Saskatchewan man has now lost his bid to hold on to 10 dogs the B.C. SPCA took from his property earlier this year.

Animal cruelty conviction in Saskatchewan meant Terry Baker wasn't allowed to own more than 10 dogs

One of 46 dogs the SPCA seized from Terry Baker's Williams Lake property in February. (SPCA)

Last December, a Regina provincial court judge handed Terry Baker an unusual set of prohibitions as part of a conditional sentence for a charge of animal cruelty.

For the next three years, the 63-year-old wouldn't be allowed to own more than 10 dogs, six horses and 10 chickens and 20 animals under the age of six months.

The order was supposed to bring to an end a case that began with the seizure of 70 dogs from Baker's Saskatchewan farm in April 2016.

And yet — just months after that sentence was delivered — Baker again faces the possibility of charges, this time related to the seizure of 46 dogs in February from his new home in British Columbia.

The details of the case are laid out in a B.C. Farm Industry Review Board decision rejecting Baker's attempts to regain custody of 10 of the animals.

They include a letter from B.C. SPCA chief enforcement officer Marcie Moriarty.

"Instead of taking this conviction seriously and recognizing that you are not capable of looking after animals properly, you moved to a different province, ignored the judge and the terms of your bail and acquired more animals, effectively sentencing them to a life of distress," she wrote.

"This complete disregard for the law and the dog's well-being is extremely concerning."

'He is not making excuses'

Animal welfare authorities say the sad case highlights the need for prosecutors to seek Criminal Code charges in animal cruelty cases because the consequences will follow an offender across provincial boundaries.

Moriarty says the SPCA has recommended charges in the B.C. case and would like to see a lifetime ban on owning animals.

Terry Baker spoke to the CBC at his farm in Saskatchewan following the seizure of 70 dogs in that province. He said he treated his animals well. (Dean Gutheil/CBC)

The review board is the first avenue of appeal for animal custody disputes with the B.C. SPCA. In addition to dismissing Baker's claim, the board has ordered him to pay nearly $50,000 in costs related to the care of his dogs.

Baker represented himself before the board.

He claimed his dogs were never in distress. He also said he only pleaded guilty in Saskatchewan because he didn't have the money to fight.

He has now sold his home in Williams Lake and was living in a hotel at the time of the hearing, grief-stricken by the loss of his elderly mother, who died before the dogs were taken away.

"The situation was not 'perfectly ideal' but they were well-fed, happy and no one was harmed or abused. He took care of these dogs, loved them, they were part of his family but things 'got away' from him when his mom died," the decision quotes Baker as testifying.

"He said he did his best. His mom died in October and he has been 'pretty darn depressed'. He is not making excuses; he did his best and misses and loves his dogs."

'No concrete plan for the future'

The B.C. SPCA painted a very different picture of the situation in its evidence. A special officer testified that a member of the public who purchased a puppy from Baker said the animal "seemed dead inside."

One veterinarian noted that "fecal material was caked to the floor on the main floor and basement" and that "bedding for the puppies in the basement was heavily soiled with fecal material and urine."

The SPCA released these pictures of dogs seized at Terry Baker's Williams Lake property in February. (SPCA)

"When cornered, the dogs would show avoidance behaviours and signs of stress including tucked tails, hunched posture, avoiding eye contact, ears pulled back, lip licking and alarm barking," the veterinarian wrote.

"The dogs reacted like wild animals — showing fear and avoidance of people throughout the process."

The veterinarians also expressed concern about inbreeding. Since the 46 dogs were seized, they've given birth to 24 puppies. The SPCA believes still more are pregnant.

The review board concluded Baker had "absolutely no concrete plan for the future."

"(His) plan seemed to be one of resignation to the uncontrolled breeding and expansion of his number of dogs while he made little effort to actually do anything to address the problems, or the conditions of his court order," the decision said.

'Sick to the bone with worry'

Kaley Pugh, the executive director of Saskatchewan's Animal Protection Services, says she was aware of Baker's problems in B.C.

"I'm not surprised that he had further issues with caring for animals. That's unfortunately fairly typical of people that have had a large number of animals in the past," Pugh said.

"It often reoccurs and there's often a lack of understanding of the concerns on the part of the animal owner, so if they move provinces, it's not uncommon for the situation to reoccur."

In addition to the appeal, Baker has also defended himself through a pair of Facebook pages.

On one, he claims he did "everything they asked of me" — giving away dogs before moving to B.C.

"I am sick to the bone with worry and despair. The house is like a tomb. No life to it now," he wrote.

"This can happen to anyone. If your dogs bark at someone, they call that distress and can take them. Sorry for letting you all down. I wanted the best for the dogs, some of which face certain death now. They were loyal to me and loved."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jason Proctor

@proctor_jason

Jason Proctor is a reporter in British Columbia for CBC News and has covered the B.C. courts and the justice system extensively.

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