Edmonton

Demonstrators call for justice outside court where horse abuse case heard

Two people facing over 60 charges each after RCMP found dead and starving horses on an acreage did not appear in court Monday morning in Evansburg.

More than a dozen demonstrators stood outside the courthouse in Evansburg

Demonstrators called for justice in this case and improvements to Alberta's Animal Protection Act to ensure something similar doesn't happen again. (CBC/Peter Evans)

Two people facing over 60 charges each after RCMP found dead and starving horses on an acreage west of Edmonton did not appear in court Monday morning in Evansburg.

Patricia Lynn Moore and Ross Andrew Atkinson were expected to face a judge at a preliminary hearing. In a packed courtroom, lawyers instead deferred the case until Feb. 11.

Moore faces 66 charges of permitting or causing unnecessary pain, suffering or injury to animals. Sixty-five horses and six dogs were seized from her property after RCMP began investigating in December. Moore was previously convicted of cruelty to animals and banned from owning horses for five years.

Atkinson faces 63 animal cruelty charges related to the case.

More than a dozen demonstrators stood outside the courtroom Monday morning calling for justice in this case and improvements to Alberta's Animal Protection Act to ensure something similar doesn't happen again.

"I know we're not going to change this overnight by any means, but I think harsher sentencing for this repeat abuser is definitely something that needs to come out of it," Alana Meropoulis said. 

Alana Meropoulis said she offered Patricia Moore help for the horses, but offers of feed or money were not accepted. (CBC/Peter Evans)

Meropoulis said she used to drive by the horses on Moore's acreage every day and threw feed into their pen. She tried to help Moore by offering feed and money, she said, but her offer wasn't accepted.

Meropoulis said she believes convicted animal abusers should not be allowed to own animals ever again. She said she hopes this case leads to legal changes that allow the SPCA to have more power to seize animals that appear in distress.

"The SPCA says that they abide by the acts, but yet you call them out and they come out and there's no shelter, there's no water and there's no food. And they say the public shouldn't take this into their own hands," Meropoulis said.

"How do you drive past that every day and watch these animals being starved to death and nothing being done about it? Why does the RCMP have to get involved before something is done?"

Why does the RCMP have to get involved before something is done?- Alana Meropoulis

Brenda Belanger, a co-organizer of the demonstration and a member of the equine community, agreed. The province's livestock laws are 20 years out of date, she said, and the SPCA is limited in the action it can take when following through on complaints.

Belanger said the demonstrators plan to follow this case through the court system and have another rally planned for later in the month.

"This is just the beginning," Belanger said. 

"We'd like to use this as a precedent case in order to change some of the APA laws and some of the things governing that allows the SPCA to step up and follow through with these cases."

Around a dozen people held signs calling for stronger animal protection laws in Alberta. (CBC/Peter Evans)

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