Accused animal hoarder released pending trial in southern Alberta

April Dawn Irving faces 14 animal cruelty charges and was recently found fit to stand trial after a psychiatric evaluation.

201 dogs were seized from April Dawn Irving's property near Milk River in 2014

April Dawn Irving fled after police seized 201 dogs from a Milk River area property in 2014. (Milk River RCMP/AARCS)

An Alberta woman facing 14 animal cruelty charges has been released from custody after undergoing a psychiatric assessment prior to trial. 

April Dawn Irving, 59, pleaded guilty in March to one count of failing to appear in court and not guilty to 14 other charges related to cruelty to animals and causing or permitting an animal to be in distress.

She was sentenced to 30 days for failure to appear, but had already served that time. 

On Friday, a judge released Irving with several conditions, including keeping the peace, living at a specified address, attending court when required to do so and to not have, possess or be in the primary care of any household pets, including dogs. 

Applications rejected by judge

Irving's lawyer made two applications on Friday.

Bjoern Wolkmann asked the judge to slap a publication ban on the name of the person responsible for her and the address and location where she and that person will reside.

He also wanted to bar the public and media from the hearing. 

Wolkmann told the court that Irving had received death threats while in custody, and that because her case had received significant media exposure in the past, she now had the right to privacy.

Both applications were rejected by Judge Derek Redman.

Charges stem from 2014 incident

Irving's involvement with the law stems from 2014, when officials seized 201 dogs from her property near Milk River, Alta. The animals were found dehydrated, starving and chained in the yard. Five other dogs were found dead.

Irving was charged and then failed to appear in court in 2016.

She was believed to have been living in Jamaica until appearing in Canada earlier this year. She was arrested in Manitoba in January and returned to Alberta to face the outstanding charges.

She recently underwent psychiatric evaluation at the Southern Alberta Forensic Psychiatry Centre to determine whether she was fit to stand trial. 

It was determined on April 25 that she can be held criminally responsible for her actions. 

With files from Lara Fominoff and Lethbridge News Now