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Accused Alberta dog hoarder previously charged in Saskatchewan

WATCH ABOVE: The SPCA is investigating a severe case of animal neglect in southern Alberta. As Shallima Maharaj reports, the person believed responsible for the hoarding has a history of animal neglect.

WARNING: The details in this story may be disturbing to some. 

EDMONTON — The woman believed to be at the centre of what the Alberta SPCA calls one of the worst cases of animal hoarding it’s ever seen has a history with authorities in Saskatchewan.

In June 2010, April Irving was found guilty of charges laid under Saskatchewan’s Animal Protection Act. The Saskatchewan SPCA seized 82 dogs from her property near Foam Lake.

Irving was fined $5,000, which at the time was the highest possible penalty under the Act. She was also given a restriction preventing her from owning more than two dogs for the next decade.

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“It’s a challenging situation. If people are convicted under a provincial legislation, there’s nothing to carry over any sentence that they might get to different jurisdictions,” said Kaley Pugh, manager of Animal Protection Services for the Saskatchewan SPCA.

Pugh says animal hoarding happens more often than Canadians think.

“One way around that is to use the Criminal Code of Canada more extensively and prosecute people under the Criminal Code instead of the Provincial Act,” Pugh told Global News.

On Wednesday, it was revealed that 201 extremely emaciated dogs were seized from a single property in Milk River, Alberta during a two-stage operation.

The dog’s owner voluntarily surrendered 60 dogs to the SPCA in late December. When the dogs were removed from the home, the SPCA estimated it was about half of the total number of dogs at the property. Upon returning to the property in January, SPCA peace officers removed an additional 141 dogs.

READ MORE: SPCA removes 201 emaciated and neglected dogs from southern Alberta property

After the dogs were seized by the SPCA, their ownership was transferred to the Alberta Animal Rescue Crew Society.

By Thursday, 22 of the dogs were up for adoption at the Red Deer Petland. Those that have been involved in the animals’ recovery say it’s rewarding to see how far the dogs have come.

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“They didn’t know what a bed was, they didn’t know what a blanket was, they didn’t even know what water was, really,” Erica Coomber with AARCS said of the dogs when they were taken in.

“When they came in their faces were in buckets of water, drinking as fast as they can,” Coomber said. “That dog food was something new to them. They would eat and eat and eat and eat. … And behaviour-wise, once they got to know us and we were feeding them, they really started to come around.”

Nearly all of the 200 dogs will be up for adoption at various shelters and rescue organizations around the province.

The SPCA says charges are pending against the owners.