Trial continues into ‘puppy mill’ accusations

Mel Gerling was charged after 14 small dogs were seized from a property on Sumas Way in Abbotsford.

Mel Gerling

A manager with the BC SPCA testified in court on Monday that 14 dogs seized by the agency in Abbotsford in September 2010 were not returned to the owner because she believed “it would not be in the best interest of the animals.”

Marcie Moriarty, who was the general manager of cruelty investigations at the time of the seizure, said she based her decision on reports from a veterinarian who examined the dogs, as well as documents on Mel Gerling’s history with the SPCA.

Gerling is currently on trial in B.C. Supreme Court in Chilliwack on charges of causing unnecessary suffering to an animal and failing to provide necessaries for an animal.

Moriarty was involved in the matter after the dogs – shih thus, chihuahuas, pugs and terrier crosses – were seized by the SPCA from a property on Sumas Way in Abbotsford.

Her role was to follow up with Gerling to ensure he had all information on the SPCA’s file and that he had an opportunity to respond to the allegations.

It has been alleged that Gerling was operating a “puppy mill” in which 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.

Moriarty, now chief prevention and enforcement officer with the SPCA, said a vet contracted by the agency indicated that some of the dogs required emergency dental surgery.

She said Gerling’s records with the SPCA dated back to 2006.

In prior testimony, a special constable with the SPCA said that complaints were received about two other properties with which Gerling had been involved: one on Stevens Street in Abbotsford and the other on McSween Road in Chilliwack.

Gerling’s lawyer, Derwin Petri, asked Moriarty to produce a receipt that had been

provided to the SPCA for services rendered six days after the dogs were seized from the Sumas Way property.

He pointed out that the groomer had not made any notations about the animals suffering from overgrown nails or matted fur.

The trial is now in its third week. At some point, Petri intends to argue that the SPCA conducted an illegal search of the property – thus breaching Gerling’s charter rights – and any evidence conducted after that should be thrown out.

This could affect evidence still to be presented in court from the veterinarian who examined the dogs after they were seized.