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Animal hoarder sentenced to jail time

WINNIPEG — A Gull Lake, Man., couple who admitted to hoarding dozens of dogs in horrific and deplorable conditions learned their fate in provincial court Wednesday.

Peter Chernecki was sentenced to four months in jail, as the Crown had requested. His wife Judith Chernecki must pay a $21,500 fine.

The couple is also banned from owning animals for five years, the maximum allowed by law at the time of the offence.

“If I were permitted to give lifetime bans, I would,” Judge Carena Roller told court. “If this case is not the worst-case scenario, it is very close.”

The Cherneckis pleaded guilty to seven counts under the Animal Care Act but have maintained they did not abuse the animals.

“It’s most unfortunate because the Cherneckis’ hearts were in the right place, but it seems their minds weren’t,” said the couple’s defence lawyer, Jay Prober.

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The charges stemmed from the July 2010 discovery of dozens of abused and malnourished dogs at the couple’s property in Gull Lake, about 90 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg.

Of the 64 dogs found, 34 were eventually euthanized.

The animals were kept in the dark, living with rats under the floorboards and with dirty water. Their fur was so matted with feces, they had to be shaved and their teeth were rotting.

Wednesday’s sentencing was applauded by the Winnipeg Humane Society.

“I think it is an unprecedented sentence here in Manitoba and maybe across Canada. The four months actually caught me a little bit by surprise,” said Winnipeg Humane Society CEO Bill McDonald.

Firefighters eventually took control of the seizure due to toxic ammonia levels, and the buildings were eventually torn down.

The Cherneckis currently own 42 cats and must find new homes for them by March 12.

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