A man who had 14 dogs seized in Abbotsford by the SPCA last September has now been formally charged with the mistreatment of his animals.
Mel Gerling made his first appearance today (Monday) in Abbotsford provincial court, with co-accused Damara English and Patrick English, his former business partners.
The three have been charged under the Criminal Code of Canada (CCC) with causing unnecesssary pain/suffering to an animal, and under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act with causing an animal to continue to be in distress.
Marcie Moriarty, general manager of cruelty investigations with the BC SPCA, said the agency is “very pleased” that Crown counsel approved charges under both acts.
“This is a long-standing case. We’ve received numerous complaints over the years about animals in this person’s custody,” she said.
A conviction under the CCC charge is subject up to 18 months in prison, a $10,000 fine and a lifetime ban on owning animals.
Moriarty said the SPCA would “absolutely” want to see the maximum penalties in this case, given its duration, the number of dogs involved and the fact the dogs were bred for profit.
She said the 14 dogs – shih tzus, chihuahuas, pugs and terrier crosses – were spayed or neutered once they were taken by the SPCA, and all have been adopted out.
The SPCA seized the animals from an Abbotsford property after what they say were repeated complaints about Gerling, a breeder who operated Mountain View Kennels and Puppy Paradise.
They alleged that he was running a puppy mill – an operation that breeds dogs at high volume, placing profit before animal welfare.
The agency said the animals were kept outdoors in two shelters that did not offer proper protection from the elements and suffered from a range of health issues, including badly matted fur, eye infections, dental disease and badly overgrown nails.
Some of them also had luxating patellas – a hereditary condition in which the kneecap moves out of place.
At the time, Gerling blamed the dogs’ condition on the man whom he said he was paying to care for them while two new kennel buildings were being constructed in Maple Ridge.
He said the man did not groom the dogs, and Gerling was making arrangements to have the animals moved to another location, but the SPCA showed up before he had an opportunity to do so.
Gerling told The News in November that he had retired and sold his business to his partners Pat and Damara English, who renamed it Luna Kennels.
It is not known whether Luna Kennels is still in operation. Numbers listed online for locations in Chilliwack and one in Abbotsford are not in service, and the website no longer exists.