British Columbia

Charges laid in one of largest puppy mill seizures in B.C. history

Dozens of suffering dogs were seized from a Langley breeder in 2016.

Dozens of dogs were seized from a Langley breeder in February of last year

One of the young puppies from a Wheaton-poodle litter looks through a metal cage after being seized last year from a breeder in Langley, B.C. The dog, named Whoodles, has since been adopted into a "loving home." (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

When 66 dogs were seized last year from a breeder in Langley, B.C., the SPCA called it one of the biggest puppy mill seizures in provincial history.

On Wednesday, the organization announced that three people have been criminally charged with animal cruelty in relation to the operation.

Glen Lawlor, Maria Wall Lawlor, and James Dale Shively have been charged with failing their duty of care for the animals and causing or allowing animals to be in distress.

They were arrested after a puppy breeding and selling business run by the Lawlors' was raided in February 2016.

SPCA says 34 puppies, 32 adult dogs seized from family-run breeding operation in Langley 1:48

In total, 34 puppies and 32 adult dogs were found living in heinous conditions.

The SPCA said the animals were forced to live in crates and cages in a dark, unheated building. The animals were suffering from broken limbs, infections, abscesses, malnutrition and dental disease.

A statement said some of the dogs were missing ears and eyes and many had fur caked in feces.

Before and after photos of one of the dogs seized from the Langley puppy mill in 2016. The animals stayed with the SPCA for several months before they were adopted. (BC SPCA)

Officials suspected the Lawlors had been running the business, according to an SPCA search warrant obtained by CBC News last year. That document linked the couple to Shively, who was previously convicted of animal cruelty in Washington State in 2014.

At that time, Shively  — who has legally changed his name to James Phoenix — was married to the Lawlors' daughter, according to court documents.

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      On Wednesday, the SPCA said a member of the public first alerted them to the situation in Langley.

      "A key step in shutting down puppy mills is for those who are purchasing animals to be educated and aware of the signs of unscrupulous operations," said spokeswoman Marcie Moriarty.

      She said the organization is "very pleased" that criminal charges have been laid.

      The dogs — including Old English sheepdogs, Bernese mountain dogs, soft-coated wheaten terriers, standard poodles, miniature poodles and Portuguese water dogs — were rehabilitated with the SPCA for a few months before they were adopted "into loving homes."