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Case of one of Alberta’s largest animal seizures sees guilty pleas

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After four years, the woman facing more than a dozen animal cruelty charges pleaded guilty Wednesday to less than half of those charges. Quinn Campbell reports – Jul 24, 2019

*GRAPHIC WARNING: This article contains graphic details that some readers might find disturbing.

A four-year case that saw one of Alberta’s largest animal seizures of all time heard guilty pleas Wednesday.

April Irving pleaded guilty in Lethbridge court to four counts of permitting animals to be in distress under the Animal Protection Act.

“She’s accepted responsibility for what was one of the most comprehensive and voluminous cases of animal distress in this country’s history,” said Crown prosecutor Tyler Raymond.

READ MORE: April Irving, accused in Alberta animal cruelty case, released on bail under strict conditions

Agreed statements of facts were submitted to the court by Crown and defense Wednesday, however Raymond noted the two have not agreed on appropriate sentencing submission for Irving, to deliver to the judge.

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“The Animal Protection Act does not afford for any term of imprisonment,” said Raymond.

“It affords only specifically for two things: monetary fines and the second being an order of prohibition with respect to the ownership of animals.

Irving, 59, is facing 13 counts of animal cruelty and neglect after 201 emaciated dogs were seized from a property in Milk River in January 2015.

The seizure came after Irving voluntarily surrendered 16 dogs, a mix of Huskies, Irish wolfhounds, Malamutes and Komondors, to the SPCA a month earlier.

Court heard Wednesday that Irving used a fake name to surrender a dog to a local vet clinic in 2014. The Husky was said to be malnourished and in distress and was suffering from a large, prolonged prolapsed vagina, causing the dog to move awkwardly.

READ MORE: April Irving, woman at centre of animal cruelty case reportedly in Jamaica

Irving surrendered 60 dogs to the SPCA, many of which were determined to be in moderate to extreme distress.

Then, during a second seizure just weeks later, 140 living dogs were seized.

Several newborn dead dogs were also found outside the trailer Irving was living in near Milk River. A dead dog was found on top of a television with hair, urine and feces littering the small space.

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The dogs were tethered by chains as short as three feet and several suffered from dehydration and untreated wounds.

After the first charges were laid, the 59-year-old reportedly fled to Jamaica. Irving was found back in Canada in January 2019, where she was arrested in Manitoba, then brought back to Alberta to face her charges.

In May, however, Irving was released on $1,000 bail and a list of release conditions.

The case continued in court in April 2019, when Irving was deemed mentally fit to stand a trial.

READ MORE: Alberta woman at centre of animal cruelty case arrested in Manitoba

The RCMP said the Alberta SPCA has described the case as the largest seizure of neglected dogs in the province’s history.

After entering her guilty plea Wednesday, Irving refused to answer questions, but said repeatedly that she loves her dogs.

Irving is scheduled to be back in Lethbridge court September 30 for sentencing.

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