A provincial court judge is set to rule on whether a Knutsford rancher willfully or neglectfully caused pain or suffering to her Great Danes and cats.
Lawyers made their final arguments Tuesday in the animal cruelty trial of Carol Haughton, which began two years ago. The dog breeder was charged in 2009 with three counts under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act after a 2009 SPCA visit to her property.
With Haughton temporarily absent, tending to her Alberta farm, the investigation found animals living in deplorable conditions. An SPCA special constable and a veterinarian seized the animals based on conditions they determined to be far short of professional kennel standards.
One of their concerns was the midsummer heat in combination with poor ventilation.
A final defence witness testified Tuesday that the home had more than adequate natural ventilation when he inspected it months after the animals were seized.
Rudy Suppanz described the home as a “noodle sieve,” since it was built about 50 years ago and had air-infiltration problems. He detailed the ventilation measurements for each floor and concluded there were no problems. However, there were no animals, no feces or urine, in the home at the time of the inspection.
In final remarks, prosecutor Chris Balison argued that ventilation is irrelevant. Conditions in the home, as amply demonstrated in video and photos entered as evidence, were awful since the dogs had the run of the home, he said. The stench was so vile that the constable had to leave the home to vomit, while the vet had to wear a face mask so she wasn’t overcome.
Haughton’s son, who lived nearby, would feed and water the animals in his mother’s absence, but the cleaning was left untll her return, Balison said.
“Allowing him to care for the animals with that exception, in my opinion, amounts to willful neglect,” Balison said.
Defence counsel Dale Pedersen listed and challenged all of the conditions detailed by investigators. The animals had access to adequate food, water and shade. The stench was caused by rotting meat in a kitchen fridge that Haughton planned to replace when she returned, he said.
Pedersen also argued that much of the inspection evidence was unclear or inconclusive. Seven of eight adult dogs had ideal body weights, according to a vet who testified in defence. Some of the animals exhibited distress, but that could have been cause by any number of factors, even separation anxiety triggered by their removal from the home, Pedersen noted.
Crown submitted that the evidence is overwhelming and should enable Judge Stella Frame to convict beyond a reasonable doubt on all three counts.
“It’s not the individual pieces that lead her to a conclusion,” Balison said, referring to a report from the vet. “It’s the entirety of the property.”