SPCA officials seized nine dogs, 24 cats and 18 rabbits from a Chilliwack River Valley property in January 2018. Michael Clendenning appealed to have the animals returned, but that appeal was rejected.

Chronic animal hoarder to be sentenced in Chilliwack court Friday

Michael Clendenning had 51 cats, rabbits and dogs seized due to serious physical and mental distress

A 73-year-old man found with dozens of cats and rabbits in distressing physical condition is scheduled for sentencing in provincial court in Chilliwack Friday afternoon.

When the SPCA finally seized 51 animals from his Chilliwack River Valley property two years ago, Michael Clendenning already had a long history animal neglect dating back to 2004 in North Vancouver.

Clendenning was convicted of one count of causing animal to continue to be in distress under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act on Oct. 1, 2019.

In addition to the 24 cats and 18 rabbits found in various states of physical and mental distress – emaciation, dehydration, wounds, scarring, breathing difficulty and severe fear – investigators found a burial pit on Crown land adjacent to his property with 93 dead animals in it.

The nine dogs seized on that day in January 2018 were all in better physical condition than any of the cats, according to the SPCA, but all animals were covered in feces and urine, and were living in a dangerous situation due to the presence of an “extraordinarily high level of ammonia,” according to the written decision in Clendenning’s failed appeal to have his animals returned.

That appeal by Clendenning to the BC SPCA was heard by B.C. Farm Industry Review Board (BCFIRB) on March 8, 2018.

Only five of the 51 animals seized did not have signs of at least one medical or behavioural illness and did not require any special care, and the BCFIRB panel was blunt in its assessment of the fact that Clendenning did not seek veterinary care for his animals over the year-and-a-half that he lived at the property prior to the seizure.

“It is astounding to the Panel that the Appellant, who professes his love of his animals, carried some 93 dead animals over 18 months to his back fence and buried their bodies without it occurring to him that something was killing his animals and he needed to seek veterinary care.”

In his response to the Panel during his appeal, Clendenning said he did not notice “at all” that his animals were starving or thin.

“Regarding the 35 to 50 animals that had died in his care since October 2016, he testified that he did not know why they died,” according to the written decision. “He considered seeing a veterinarian but most of the dead animals were rabbits or bunnies and illness is hard to detect. One day they are fine and the next they are dead.”

The panel denied Clendenning’s appeal, and he was ordered to pay veterinary and housings costs of caring for his seized animals of $42,177.84.

For months before the seizure, neighbours complained about the property where the owner built structures to house the animals, along with fences and gates around the property.

“The 24-hour barking and whining and the potent feces smell for two years doesn’t compare to the worry everyone on the block had for these poor animals,” next-door neighbour Tyler Janzen said.

• READ MORE: SPCA seize dogs, cats and rabbits from Chilliwack River Valley property

Clendenning moved on to the property in October 2016, and quickly neighbours noticed problems.

“Within a month there were too many animals to count,” Janzen added. “I could see all this going on 40 feet away, and never once did he show any affection to any of them. All day long for over a year all we could hear was ‘shut up, shut up.’”

• RELATED: Much-raided Langley animal rescue society loses registered charitable status

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