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'Animal hoarding': B.C. rescuer won't get 63 dogs back, must pay SPCA $75K

Concerns included fearful animals, sanitation, water issues, illness, coughing, sneezing, rotten teeth and overgrown toenails.
On Nov. 2, 2021, Mission bylaw officers, SPCA staff and a member of the RCMP entered one property and found over 100 dogs in various sorts of confinement.

The operator of a Mission dog rescue society from which the SPCA seized 63 dogs in January won’t be getting them back and must now pay the animal group $75,392, B.C.’s Farm Industry Review Board has ordered.

The SPCA must now decide to destroy, sell, or otherwise dispose of the dogs.

The board’s March 14 decision said the SPCA seized the dogs on Jan. 4; on Jan. 27, it issued a decision upholding the seizure.

The animals were seized from Dogway Dog Rescue, operated by 74-year-old Cherry Roslyn Hagan, also known as Cherry Latour.

The board decision said Latour has a long-documented history of interactions with the SPCA, the Fraser Valley Regional District and the City of Mission, with respect to animals in her care.

The decision said complaints mentioned in an SPCA search warrant application included “concerns with respect to dogs living under poor, unsanitary conditions, the build-up of urine and feces on the premises, dogs with matted fur coats, excessive use of dog crates for confinement, the lack of adequate space, incompatible pairings, high ammonia levels and general neglect.”

The society had issued 13 notices of distress to Latour and made recommendations including:

  • providing the dogs clean potable drinking water at all times;
  • ensuring the cleanliness of the food and water containers provided to the dogs;
  • providing coat and nail care for the dogs;
  • providing veterinary care for the dogs when required;
  • ensuring adequate ventilation while the dogs are confined;
  • providing adequate shelter to ensure protection from heat and cold, and shade to protect from them from sun exposure;
  • providing sufficient space for the dogs to turn freely;
  • providing the opportunity for periodic exercise;
  • providing adequate human contact; and,
  • providing a clean and regularly sanitized living space.

On Nov. 2, 2021, Mission bylaw officers, SPCA staff and a member of the RCMP entered one property and found over 100 dogs in various sorts of confinement.

“Twenty of the dogs were housed in a garage, most of which were in wire crates,” the decision said.

“The garage windows were covered and closed and provided no ventilation with the result that the dogs were being exposed to high levels of ammonia. Some of the dogs had overgrown toenails and none of the dogs had access to water. Barking in the garage was extremely loud and several dogs appeared to be shivering and fearful. The dogs become calmer as the inspection proceeded; however, some of the dogs appeared to be in medical distress. Three dogs were being contained in (Latour’s) automobile.”

In a basement, officers discovered four “fearful” Formosan Mountain dogs.

“The house was described as dilapidated and unkempt,” the decision said. “It was dark in the basement, which had a strong odour of urine and a build-up of feces.”

Two weeks later, Latour was issued a notice identifying 16 breaches of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.

On Nov. 23, 2021, Fraser Valley Regional District Animal Control advised Latour she was limited to a small number of dogs on each of her properties.

Soon, Latour surrendered a number of dogs to the complainant in the case, who also ran an animal rescue.

“The complainant noted that the surrendered dogs were fearful, smelled of urine and feces, in medical distress due to neglect, and infested with fleas and parasites,” the decision said.

In March 2022, officers again visited and found several dogs continuing “to display signs of psychological distress; cowering, hiding, trembling, excessively barking, chewing and grooming.”

Then, on Dec. 27, the SPCA received an anonymous complaint of 62 dogs on the property, 20 of which were housed indoors, 20 in the garage, and two in Latour’s vehicle.

The complainant reported illness, coughing, sneezing, eye discharges, rotten teeth and overgrown toenails.

Soon after, a warrant was obtained and the dogs were seized.

Health hazard

Latour said since the seizure she has had ammonia detectors installed, hired people to clean and do rodent control, fixed sleeping condition, bought bottled water and updated the ventilation system.

“She stated that she is not a hoarder and that COVID is the reason that she ended up in a position in which the society seized the dogs in her care,” the decision said.

Latour received numerous letters of support from people saying the facility was clean and that the animals were well looked after.

Animal expert Rebecca Ledger testified she had grave concerns about returning the dogs to Latour’s care.

Veterinarian Dr. Karen Harvey attended the seizure. She described Latour’s house as a “health hazard.”

“The dwelling overall presents a state of extensive clutter and squalor consistent with published animal hoarding cases. When a rescuer or other caregiver chronically and repeatedly assumes care for more animals than they have capacity to support, significant animal suffering can result even if it is not intentional. This is a hallmark of animal hoarding…”

While Latour challenged much of the testimony, the board said she was given ample opportunity to improve and change. In some cases, she did.

“However, the evidence also shows that she then invariably returned to her familiar pattern of providing inadequate care,” the decision said.

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