R v Stewart, [2008] OJ No 4041 (ON Ct J)

This is the trial of Agnes Stuart and Peter Wilson, a married couple, on several charges relating to their negligent care of their cats and dogs. The couple had been the subject of Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA) investigations before. An OSPCA officer received another complaint about cats at the residence and visited the residence, noting the smell of cat urine. She left a note, and received a call from her to let the officer know Stuart was away and would return to the residence a week later. The officer continued to investigate, because she feared Wilson was trying to delay her entry into the residence. She concluded animals in the residence could be in distress, so she obtained a warrant to enter the residence.

Wilson and Stuart were home when the officer and another OSPCA employee attended to execute the warrant. The officers discovered 56 cats and two dogs living in the one bedroom apartment. There were feces all over the place, dirty litter boxes, and soiled newspapers and towels. Several of the cats had problems with their eyes, dried blood and missing fur. Many were thin. One dog and one cat were in crates with no food or water. The other dog was locked in another room because it was aggressive. There was no water visible for the cats to drink, although there was some dog food in the kitchen. The couple admitted they were giving the sick cats children’s medicine. Stuart claimed she had an animal care diploma and knew how to care for cats. The animals were seized and examined by two veterinarians. The veterinarians discovered many infections, eye, nose and respiratory problems, and one cat with burns to its paws. Eight cats had to be euthanized because they were so sick.

The officer denied she had a bias against the couple, and denied she suggested the couple was operating a puppy or kitten mill. The couple claimed the information to obtain the search warrant was insufficient and that the warrant should not have been issued. They testified they knew of a bylaw limiting the number of animals per household to six, but explained they took in more animals to provide shelter. Stuart testified the couple was operating an animal rescue operation. Stuart testified the condition of the apartment was worse than normal when the officers arrived, because Wilson was ill and she was a bit overwhelmed by the number of animals she was caring for. She admitted she chose what medicines to administer to the sick animals. She had a great deal of knowledge of animal care and treatment.

The couple was convicted as charged. The couple failed to show the warrant was obtained without sufficient grounds, and as such, there was no breach of the couple’s right to protection against unreasonable search and seizure. The OSCPA officers and veterinarians provided credible and reliable evidence without bias. Stuart’s evidence was riddled with inconsistencies and her explanations defied common sense and logic. To subject the animals to the living conditions in the couple apartment was criminal. The couple’s conduct was wilful. They caused unnecessary pain and suffering to the cats, and failed to  provide adequate food, water and shelter for most of the animals. They were equally responsible for the offences.

Source: Case Law

Jurisdiction: Ontario

Topics: animalscarecatCharter of Rights and FreedomsconstitutionalcriminalcrueltydistressdogFecesfoodMedical Problemsovercrowdedsearchseizureunreasonablewarrantwater

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