Dogway Dog Rescue in Mission is responsible to pay over $75,000 to the BC SPCA in the wake of a hearing on March 1 and 2 with the BC Farm Industry Review Board (BCFIRB), but Dogway operator Cherry Latour has petitioned the courts to fight the decision.
After 63 dogs were seized by the BC SPCA from the Mission rescue on Jan. 4, the BCFIRB rejected an appeal from the 74-year-old Latour to have the dogs returned.
A three-person BCFIRB panel heard the appeal over two days on Zoom. Latour presented evidence and called four witnesses including former Mission councillor Rhett Nicholson. Current councillor Ken Herar also sent a letter of support for Dogway.
The BC SPCA presented evidence and called on six witnesses, including three experts. In the decision released to the public on March 22, the panel determined that both medically and behaviourally, all of the animals suffered to varying degrees.
The SPCA was awarded $75,392 in animal care costs for the 63 dogs, which Latour is liable for. The costs consist of $58,139 for housing and food, $14,787 for veterinary care and $2,465 for SPCA employees’ time.
“[Latour] was clearly given many opportunities to improve her operation. The panel accepts the evidence that she did make efforts to improve for a time, each time after notices were issued to her,” the decision reads. “However, the evidence also shows that she then invariably returned to her familiar pattern of providing inadequate care.”
The BC SPCA’s chief communications officer Lorie Chortyk says many of the dogs have already been adopted while others are still getting care and will be adopted soon.
However, some dogs from the Dogway seizure had to be humanely euthanized.
“We always do everything we can to help every animal, but in some cases for medical reasons, psychological suffering, or for public safety reasons (severe aggression) animals cannot be allowed to continue suffering or cannot be safely adopted out,” Chortyk said.
The BC SPCA didn’t have exact numbers on the fate of each of the 63 dogs.
During the January seizure, the SPCA says the dogs were suffering from medical and psychological issues.
LaTour says the organization has rescued upwards of 4,000 dogs in its 15 years of operation. As of January 2023, approximately 20 dogs remained at Dogway.
“We did not remove all of the dogs, we only removed the animals that we determined were in distress,” Eileen Drever, senior officer of protection and stakeholder relations for the BC SPCA said in a January interview. “We will continue to monitor the other animals to make sure that they continue to be okay.”
The decision revealed a history of 26 complaints about Dogway related to neglect or abuse. Over that period, the SPCA issued 13 notices to the rescue with recommendations concerning the animals’ welfare.
Dr. Rebecca Ledger appeared as an expert witness for the SPCA and compiled reports concerning Dogway after the January seizure and a previous complaint about the rescue in 2021.
In the decision, Ledger says there were positive improvements in the dogs in January, but the environment at the property was causing negative behaviour. She determined all animals were suffering from something, including 16 dogs with parasites.
Veterinarian Dr. Karen Harvey also attended the property when the dogs were seized and was an expert witness during the hearing.
“It is with absolute certainty that returning these dogs to this rescue and its inhumane conditions would be a collective failure of our duty to protect the well-being of all animals,” Harvey said. “It is that duty that demands this operation be shut down permanently.”
Latour filed a petition to the Supreme Court of British Columbia on Wednesday (March 21) seeking an order to set aside the board’s decision and return the dogs. She is also seeking an interim injunction prohibiting the BC SPCA from euthanizing the seized animals.
In the petition, Latour suggests the BCFIRB admitted and considered inadmissible evidence and allowed tainted evidence to be considered. The legal basis for Latour in her document is that she was denied procedural fairness and that the BCFIRB failed to give written reasons regarding expert report admissibility.
The BCFIRB has 21 days to respond to the petition.