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Woman believed to be at centre of animal hoarding case sues SPCA

WATCH ABOVE: The seizure of more than 200 dogs from a southern Alberta acreage has led to renewed calls for tougher penalties when it comes to animal cruelty. And tonight we’re learning about the woman believed to be at the centre of the Milk River seizure. Shallima Maharaj reports.

CALGARY – The woman believed to be at the centre of a horrific animal hoarding case is suing The Alberta Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

In a Statement of Claim filed with the Court of Queen’s Bench in Lethbridge on January 20, 2015, April Irving alleges the Alberta SPCA entered her property on several occasions without permission. She also states that she fulfilled all requirements by Alberta SPCA officers over the course of several visits.

In the statement, Irving is requesting that all of her dogs be returned and that any damages, including punitive and pain and suffering, be covered. Failing this she has requested to return to her property and asks that all of her dogs be kept together. None of the allegations have been proven in court.

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Roland Lines is the Communications Manager for the Alberta SPCA.

“The application was dismissed by a judge on January 27, 2015. The Alberta SPCA is still writing up its statement of defense and expects to file it early next week.”

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“People who are investigated by the Alberta SPCA have filed statements of claim before,” says Lines. “It makes it more costly because we need to involve lawyers.”

Court documents reveal Irving was found not guilty of two criminal code charges pertaining to the unnecessary pain and suffering of animals seized in connection with a case in 2010 in Saskatchewan. The Saskatchewan SPCA seized 82 dogs from her property near Foam Lake. Irving was found guilty under section four of the Animal Protection Act, referring to an animal being found in distress.

She was fined $5,000 and ordered not to have custody of more than two animals for a period of 10 years.

READ MORE: Accused Alberta dog hoarder previously charged in Saskatchewan

Documents also show that in May 2007, the Fort McMurray SPCA seized as many as 40 dogs from Irving but returned half of them seven months later.

On Wednesday, 201 extremely emaciated dogs were seized from a single property in Milk River, Alberta during a two-stage operation. Lines said another four dogs were found dead.

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

One of the dogs, Rocky, has been placed in a foster home in Sherwood Park, east of Edmonton. Rocky’s foster parents believe he’s an eight to 10-month-old Alaskan Malamute.

Rocky was one of 201 dogs seized from a southern Alberta property.
Rocky was one of 201 dogs seized from a southern Alberta property. Global News

“He’s just such a nice boy,” said Kaitlyn Hay, who has had Rocky in her home since Monday.

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Hay volunteers with Zoe’s Animal Rescue Society; the organization contacted her earlier this week to see if she had room for the pup. While Rocky was a bit shy and timid at first, he’s really warmed up to the Hay family.

“Seeing how good Rocky’s doing after only having him for three days makes me happy, and makes me think that all of them are going to have a good future.”

The SPCA says charges in the Milk River case have not yet been laid.