British Columbia

Kennel operator ordered to pay B.C. SPCA $65,000 over dog seizure

A kennel operator outside Salmo, B.C., has lost his bid to have dozens of dogs seized by the B.C. SPCA returned to him. The British Columbia Farm Industry Review Board has also ordered Al Magaw to pay the society $65,000 in costs.

Agents seized 40 dogs from Spirit of the North Kennels outside Salmo, B.C., in February

One of the dogs seized by the B.C. SPCA in February from a Salmo-area sled dog operation. (B.C. SPCA)

A kennel operator outside Salmo, B.C., has lost his bid to have dozens of dogs returned to him after they were seized by the B.C. SPCA.

The British Columbia Farm Industry Review Board has also ordered Al Magaw to pay the society nearly $65,000 in costs.

Some 40 animals, many of them sled dogs, were seized in mid-February, after a warrant was executed at Spirit of the North Kennels by society agents.

The SPCA said the dogs at the sledding operation had inadequate shelter, hypothermia and suspected dehydration. 

On March 31, under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, it was determined that the dogs should not be returned to Magaw because the society wasn't convinced he was prepared to take necessary measures to meet the dogs' needs.

Magaw filed an appeal with the British Columbia Farm Industry Review Board on April 6 to have the animals returned to him.

While Magaw, 84, did not testify at the appeal hearings, two people who worked at the property in exchange for room and board did explain the care and training the animals receive.

Two veterinarians with experience working with and handling sled dogs also testified. Two of Magaw's daughters also presented affidavits, which said their father had a lifetime of experience caring for dogs. They maintain the dogs had regular exercise, the kennel was well kept, and the dogs were happy and healthy.

Their affidavits were also critical of the B.C. SPCA agents who conducted the seizure, saying they were dismissive, uncommunicative, condescending and aggressive.

Many of the dogs seized from the sled-dog operation displayed behaviour that indicated they were neglected and lived in chronic confinement, according to two veterinarians who testified in support of the seizure. (B.C. SPCA)

On May 27, the board ultimately ruled against Magaw when it considered testimony on behalf of the SPCA, which included another kennel volunteer who testified on behalf of the SPCA, other veterinarians and SPCA agents who were at the kennel.

The former volunteer said Magaw seemed physically incapable of caring for the dogs and he was rarely seen outside or working with them. The volunteer also described animals that suffered without veterinary care before dying.

Two veterinarians who testified in support of the seizure said many of the dogs were suffering from cold and other ailments and displaying behaviour that indicated they were neglected and lived in chronic confinement.

Best intentions not enough

In its ruling, the board said there were no allegations of abuse at the kennel. "This is an issue of ongoing marginal care provided to working animals," reads the board's ruling.

"The panel believes that everyone was operating with best intentions and to the best of their abilities, but the evidence in the condition of the dogs and their environment is that the care was not adequate to ensure that the dogs remained free of distress."

The board also ruled that Magaw is liable for costs the SPCA incurred related to the seizure, totalling $64,517.02 for hauling, boarding, and feeding the dogs, as well as veterinarian costs.

CBC News requested an interview with Magaw, but did not get a response. 

With files from Tom Popyk

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