Animals suffered despite inspections
Owner allowed to operate more than a year without licence
A case of animal cruelty involving an online pet store owner in P.E.I. has raised questions about how closely the business was monitored by provincial inspectors.
Bud Wheatley, owner of PuppiesAcrossCanada.com, was sentenced to five months in jail on Tuesday for causing unnecessary pain, suffering or injury to animals. Wheatley, 62, is also prohibited from owning any animals for 10 years, with the exception of his 13-year-old dog Sacha.
RCMP officers raided Wheatley's property on P.E.I.'s North Shore in October 2009. About 80 cats and dogs were seized in the raid and taken to the P.E.I. Humane Society. Some were emaciated, two had to be euthanized and one died before it could be treated.
Wheatley had operated his online puppy store — which has since been suspended — for 15 months without a licence while being monitored by the provincial Department of Agriculture.
On Tuesday, Judge Nancy Orr called the case "incredible."
"I wonder how in the world that could occur, and what steps need to happen to make sure animals are not put in that position again," Orr said.
Juanita Diamond, the director of the agriculture policy and regulatory division, told CBC News that inspectors went to Wheatley property when he set up the pet store in the spring of 2008.
For one year, Diamond said, Wheatley seemed to be making improvements to his operation that were necessary to get a licence.
"He would make incremental changes periodically so our inspector felt that he was trying to achieve compliance," Diamond said Wednesday.
Conditions 'spiralled out of control'
But about a year later, in the summer of 2009, the department began to get complaints from the public about the condition of the kennels and the health of the dogs and cats.
Diamond said that despite the complaints, inspectors found no health problems with the animals.
"I know people would like to see you immediately do something but this was a unique case for us and we wanted to make sure we were doing it right and it takes a little bit of time to do that," she said.
It took two months to arrange for a veterinarian to visit the property.
In that time, Diamond said, the number and seriousness of the complaints against Wheatley escalated. The conditions of the kennels had "spiralled out of control" and the department removed the animals from the property.
Officials with the Department of Agriculture said they plan to review the way inspections are done and see what changes need to be made.