Accused of committing crimes against animals, Dolores LaPlante represented herself in court as a trial began for the animal shelter owner.
Seated in a makeshift courtroom in Rosetown, Sask., the 47-year-old argued animal protection officers violated her charter rights with a search warrant carried out on Jan. 9, 2019, at her Elrose, Sask., home.
They seized 106 cats, two dogs and a turtle from the 400 square-foot, home-based shelter called the Saskatchewan Alley Cats Association.
Officers with Animal Protection Services of Saskatchewan (APSS) entered the home along with two RCMP officers and two veterinarians. Vets determined some of the animals had upper respiratory infections.
Officials never should’ve been allowed to enter the home because the information to obtain (ITO) a search warrant document was invalid, according to LaPlante.
A plumber’s complaint served as a catalyst for the ITO. He told officers some of the animals “were definitely sick. I mean, they were wheezing and making terrible sounds.”
She’s now accused of two Criminal Code charges: permitting unnecessary pain, suffering or injury to animals, and failing to provide suitable and adequate food, water, shelter and care for them. She’s also charged with putting animals in distress under Saskatchewan’s Animal Protection Act.
During a voir dire, she argued the ITO unfairly suggests she is a “crazy cat lady,” rather than the director of a registered charity benefiting animals.
Her other concerns include a perceived conflict of interest, as she said animal welfare agencies have wanted to shut her shelter down for several years. She also alleges anonymous Crime Stoppers tips against her could be fraudulent, along with multiple statements in the ITO she considers misleading.
Prosecutor Tamara Denluck told court the Crown takes offence to numerous characterizations LaPlante made about animal welfare officials.
“That is all speculation and there is simply no evidence of that before the court,” Denluck said.
Provincial court judge Shannon Metivier reserved her decision on the charter application until mid-February.
Animal cruelty convictions can lead to jail time. The maximum penalty under Saskatchewan’s Animal Protection Act is a $25,000 fine and a lifetime ban on animal ownership.
The 2019 search and seizure is the second to occur at LaPlante’s home. In 2011, animal welfare officials removed roughly 70 animals — mostly cats — from the home.
She pleaded guilty to putting animals in distress — a decision she has since said she regrets. One animal neglect charge was stayed.
In 2013, a judge ordered her to pay a $250 fine.