A Kamloops dog breeder charged with animal cruelty believes she was set up for an SPCA search of her property in 2009 that led to the seizure of her animals.
Testifying in her own defence, Carol Haughton told provincial court Thursday that she was moving cattle at her Alberta farm and had left her Knutsford animals in the care of a son who lived nearby.
She was delayed for three days, having to buck some trees blocking the cattle, when she got a call from her son.
“He said (the animals) were gone and I was home the next day,” Haughton told Judge Stella Frame.
Haughton said she’d asked her ex-husband to look after her sheep on the ranch, since he was there twice a day to look after his steers. Her son, Jason, 30, grew up taking care of her animals.
“He’s very responsible,” she said. “He calls me if there’s a problem, or I call him if I’m going to be longer than expected.”
Haughton told the court she believes her ex-husband planned to call the SPCA when she went to Alberta. They’d had a “very nasty” divorce three years earlier.
“I thought something was fishy.”
She later said she thinks a gate was intentionally left ajar, the pup litters got into the house and caused extensive damage: “It looked like a tornado had hit.”
Crown prosecutor Chris Balison objected, calling that speculation.
Defence lawyer Dale Pedersen asked her if she’d checked the animals’ health before leaving.
“I see them all the time. I live with them. I always have dogs with me.”
An SPCA constable and a veterinarian testified Wednesday that they found the animals living in deplorable conditions with no one to care for them when they arrived. The SPCA had obtained a search warrant in response to a public complaint. There was no alternative other than to seize the animals, veterinarian Sarah Greenwood told the court.
Yet in testimony about the condition of her Great Danes, Haughton said all but one of the animals — one that had been treated for ringworm — were healthy other than showing some signs of aging. The health of several animals suffered after they were seized, however.
The 26 dogs, including pups, were kept in foster homes until Haughton was able to win a judicial review and bring the surviving animals home. With her dogs gone, she lost 12 cows to coyotes that next spring, she said.
Pedersen asked his client about her husbandry practices, including vaccination, oral health, feeding and watering, challenging assertions made by witnesses about poor conditions. Four water bowls were entered as exhibits to show the residual effect of hard well water
“That’s what you get for living on a farm,” she said. “I raised six kids on it. It’s good water, it’s just hard.”