For the second time in a decade, Dolores LaPlante was back in a Saskatoon court.
Accused of putting animals in distress, she squared off against a lawyer at Court of Queen’s Bench after filing an injunction to stop the animals from being adopted while she awaits trial.
On Thursday, court heard 106 cats, two dogs and one turtle were removed from her home in Elrose which also serves as an animal shelter – Saskatchewan Alley Cats Association.
As reported earlier by Global News in 2011 in relation to a separate charge, the size of LaPlante’s home is just 360 square feet.
According to the lawyer for Animal Protection Services of Saskatchewan, authorities seized animals earlier this month after an investigation was launched because of a tip.
LaPlante was reported by a plumber who had been called to the address on a service call.
According to written documents, he started feeling ill an hour-and-a-half after his arrival, describing the living conditions as unsanitary and filed a complaint out of concern for the animals.
Megan Bortis detailed how the animals exhibited signs of distress when they were seized, had insufficient space compared to what is required, and no food or water was in their dishes.
She then began to paint a disturbing picture for the court — along with the animals found alive, there were 11 cats found in a freezer with evidence to suggest they were not humanely euthanized.
Court also heard the initial cost of accommodations, food and vet bills for the removed animals was more than $62,000. To date, that figure is just shy of $100,000 dollars of the tax payer’s money.
LaPlante, who is representing herself, argued there is no evidence to support the environment where she was raising the animals was causing any harm – that she’s only guilty of having a messy home.
In the past, 60 to 80 cats are normally the number of animals in the shelter’s care, but as of late it’s been 150 spread out between 14 foster homes. LaPlante acknowledged before the judge that at one point the number seemed a bit excessive.
It was also from her understanding that regulations required “giving the best care under the circumstances,” and since many of these animals arrived out of necessity or as the result of an emergency, she was doing just that.
“I don’t think they’re handling this correctly,” she told court of the authorities.
LaPlante told court she is a trained veterinarian technologist who suffers from mental health issues and is currently on welfare. She also noted several times that she looked forward to trial in order to clear her name.
Global News requested access to photographs taken from inside LaPlante’s home during the time of the raid but it was denied.
The judge also ruled the two dogs considered her personal pets would be returned her immediately, which required an official with animal protection to give up the whereabouts of those two animals.
The cats and turtle remain at undisclosed locations.
As for the unexplained cats in the freezer, LaPlante told court there were even more carcasses in another deep freeze had officials searched further. All were diseased animals she didn’t have time to bury before snowfall.
However, when it came to the second batch – the cats were all euthanized by a vet on a single day because they were no longer responding to medication and their quality of life was going downhill.
A decision in this matter has been reserved until a later date.
LaPlante is no stranger to the court system, she was pleaded guilty to the same charge in 2011. At that time – 65 cats, one dog, seven turtles and an iguana were seized.
On Thursday, the case was briefly touched on by Bortis who noted for judge that the number of animals involved this time is doubled that was what it was eight years ago.
An official with Animal Protection Services of Saskatchewan who was present in court told Global News he didn’t want to speak to this specific case.
What he would say is that fines are typically handed down by judges in order to deter this kind of behaviour but it often doesn’t work – what has is prohibiting a person from ever owning or caring for an animal again.