P.E.I. woman sentenced in dog starvation case, banned from owning pets

A Wood Islands woman has been banned from owning or caring for any pets after pleading guilty in dog "starvation" case.

WARNING This story contains images than some may find disturbing

The PEI Humane Society said Tikka, shown here, and Harley, were in its care for two to three months, but were unable to be rehabilitated. (PEI Humane Society)

A P.E.I. woman has been banned from owning or caring for any pets for five years after pleading guilty to charges involving dogs that were seized because they were believed to be starving.

Rhonda Lea Kerr, 40, of Wood Islands pleaded guilty in Georgetown provincial court Thursday to two charges under P.E.I.'s Companion Animal Protection Act of causing or permitting a companion animal to be or continue to be in distress.

The two dogs, Harley and Tikka, which were believed to be Staffordshire-Terriers, were seized by P.E.I. Humane Society animal protection officers in December 2016 after the society received a tip about animals in distress.
13-year-old Harley was one of the two dogs seized from Kerr's property. (PEI Humane Society)

The two dogs were tied up outside, but didn't appear to have any food, water, or adequate shelter, and seemed severely malnourished, said Jennifer Harkness, the Society's development co-ordinator. 

We just couldn't save them in the end- Jennifer Harkness, P.E.I. Humane Society

"You could see all of the bones in their body.They appeared to be starving so they were in severe distress," she said.

After being assessed by veterinarians, the dogs were put on a slow feeding schedule, and eventually did attain a healthy weight, according to Harkness.
The PEI Humane Society said both animals were in bad condition when they were seized. (PEI Humane Society)

However, despite efforts to socialize the dogs, and find placements for them, both had a number of behavioural issues that could not be fixed, she said, including severe separation anxiety, showing aggression to members of the public and to other animals.

"Basically it came to a point where they were a public safety risk," said Harkness. "We really did try very hard to rehabilitate them and get them adopted, but we just couldn't save them in the end." 

After working with the dogs for several months, staff became quite attached to Harley and Tikka, so the decision to euthanize them was "heart-breaking," she said.
Two-year-old Tikka was also found severely emaciated. (PEI Humane Society)

In addition to being banned for caring for any pets for five years, Kerr will be on probation for two years and was ordered to pay the Humane Society's vet bill of $2,876.

According to facts read out in court, Kerr told investigators that the dogs had escaped and had been missing for several months, and had returned just days before being seized. Court also heard the woman told investigators she planned to take the dogs to the vet, but didn't have the money.

Court heard investigators considered this a serious case of neglect. The vet reported the dogs scored the lowest possible for physical condition and were considered quite frail. The night they were seized in December, the temperature was well below freezing.

Jennifer Harkness says anyone who finds themselves in a situation where they can no longer care for their animals, should surrender them to the Humane Society, "because no animal should have to suffer."