Manitoba couple awaits sentencing in dog abuse case

A Manitoba couple is waiting to hear how they will be sentenced in one of the worst cases of dog abuse in the province's history.

Peter and Judith Chernecki pleaded guilty in April to 7 counts under Animal Care Act

Peter and Judith Chernecki are waiting to hear how they will be sentenced in one of the worst cases of dog abuse in Manitoba's history. 1:50

A Manitoba couple is waiting to hear how they will be sentenced in one of the worst cases of dog abuse in the province's history.

Peter Chernecki and his wife, Judith, pleaded guilty in April to seven counts under the Animal Care Act.

One of the dogs seized in July 2010 and taken to the Winnipeg Humane Society had its matted and feces-knotted fur shaved down. (Megan Benedictson/CBC)
Crown and defence lawyers presented their sentencing arguments at the courthouse in Winnipeg on Tuesday.

The Crown is seeking thousands of dollars in fines for both Peter and Judith Chernecki and a five-year ban on owning animals, as well as four months in custody for Peter.

Prosecutors also want the couple to cover the costs related to caring for the seized dogs.

The couple's lawyer, Jay Prober, is calling for probation.

"They're definitely not criminals," Prober told reporters outside court.

"Their hearts and their intentions were in the right place. They couldn't say no to any dog that they found running wild, or any dog that somebody dropped off, and they took on too many dogs and things got out of hand."

The judge overseeing the case reserved her decision in the matter, and the court's next step is to set a date for sentencing. It's expected the judge will deliver a sentence in January.

The charges stem from the July 2010 discovery of dozens of abused and malnourished dogs at the couple's property in Gull Lake, about 90 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg.

At first, the number of dogs reported was 61 but that was later increased to 64.

The Winnipeg Humane Society took in a number of the dogs and sent some of the surviving animals to a well-known dog shelter in the United States called DogTown.

Couple now has 42 cats

Bill McDonald, the society's chief executive officer, says the Cherneckis should not be allowed to own any animals.

"Evidence was presented in the courtroom this morning that the Cherneckis now have gathered 42 cats on their property, which indicates to me that we're going to be going through another exercise with them at some point down the road," McDonald said outside court Tuesday.

Crown prosecutor Shaun Sass acknowledged there are concerns about the cats currently in the couple's care.

"What happens to the cats they have is not up to me. I think they need to be limited in the number of cats they have," Sass told reporters.

In 2010, Peter Chernecki told CBC News he and his wife were trying to help out stray animals that had been abandoned at the local landfill

Many of the animals seized from the home were wounded, covered in feces and severely malnourished. At least 34 of the dogs had to be euthanized after they were seized because they were in such poor condition.

The dogs were kept in two buildings with no windows and were never allowed outside, according to the humane society.

Colleen Marion, a companion animal welfare veterinarian with the Manitoba government, says the Chernecki case is the worst case of dog hoarding she has ever seen.

"I do believe that the Cherneckis care about animals greatly, but I don't think that they cared for the animals as they needed to," she said outside court.

She added that it's important to recognize the "significant potential health concerns that lie within these individuals."


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