Trial begins for man accused of running puppy mill

Mel Gerling was charged in 2011 after the SPCA seized 14 dogs from an Abbotsford property.

The BC SPCA started receiving complaints in 2006 about alleged puppy mills that were being operated by a man later busted in Abbotsford, according to testimony presented in court Monday morning.

Jeanette McKnight, a special provincial constable with the SPCA, said the complaints related to issues such as urine-soaked crates, filthy surroundings, overcrowding, unclipped nails and matted fur.

The properties were located on Stevens Street in Abbotsford and McSween Road in Chilliwack and were operated by dog breeder Mel Gerling.

Gerling’s trial began Monday in B.C. Supreme Court in Chilliwack on charges of causing unnecessary suffering to an animal and failing to provide necessaries for an animal.

Two co-accused, Damara and Patrick English, each entered a surprise guilty plea on a charge of causing an animal to continue to be in distress, an offence under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.

They will be sentenced at a later date.

McKnight said, for the most part, she found the sites to be clean, with sufficient food and water for the animals.

She said there were some minor issues with grooming and unclipped nails, but orders issued to Gerling were usually resolved.

The Stevens Street property closed down in late 2007, and Gerling moved the operation to McSween Road.

McKnight said she had ongoing concerns about the number of dogs on site and the potential for the spread of disease.

On one occasion in 2007, she said there about 80 adult dogs and puppies on the property, and Gerling indicated he had plans to accommodate up to 500 dogs within five years to supply a pet store chain.

In late 2008, McKnight said the SPCA received a call that 27 dogs had died on the site, but she saw no signs of this when she visited later that day.

She said she continued to make regular checks of the property.

“I was concerned that we were getting complaints … I had not seen anything on the property that would be alarming to me, but we were getting complaints both from the public and from people on the property,” she said.

McKnight’s testimony up until the afternoon session on Monday covered the period ending February 2009.

Gerling and the Englishes (his former employees) were charged in May 2011, several months after the SPCA seized 14 dogs (some pictured at left) – shih tzus, chihuahuas, pugs and terrier crosses – from a property on Sumas Way in Abbotsford.

It was alleged that the dogs were not receiving proper protection from the elements and were suffering from a range of health issues, including badly matted fur, eye infections, dental disease and badly overgrown nails.

Gerling’s lawyer, Derwin Petri, said his client did not live at the property at the time and had paid another man $700 a month to care for the dogs.

Petri hopes to argue later in the trial that SPCA authorities conducted an illegal search of the property – thus breaching Gerling’s charter rights – and all the evidence should be thrown out.

The trial has been scheduled for three weeks.




Just Posted

Police tape is shown in Toronto Tuesday, May 2, 2017. Statistics Canada says the country's crime rate ticked up again in 2018, for a fourth year in a row, though it was still lower than it was a decade ago. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
CRIME STOPPERS: ‘Most wanted’ for the week of June 13

Crime Stoppers’ weekly list based on information provided by police investigators

These three kittens, seen here on Thursday, June 10, 2021, are just some of many up for adoption at the Chilliwack SPCA. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: Find Me My Furever Home – Three kittens at the Chilliwack SPCA

Kittens were in ‘rough shape’ when they came into the Chilliwack SPCA, now ready for adoption

Jacqueline Pearce and Jean-Pierre Antonio received the BC Historical Federation Best Article Award on Saturday for their story about translating haiku written in the Tashme internment camp.
Article chronicling haiku in Japanese internment camp near Hope wins award

Tashme Haiku Club’s work was preserved and recently translated, authors write

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: Chilliwack family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A new sign was installed at St. Thomas Anglican Church on Saturday, June 5, 2021 in Chilliwack. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Community effort to install new sign at Chilliwack’s oldest church

‘We feel it’s a step in the right direction to bring the church up-to-date,’ says St. Thomas parishioner

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

Most Read