Horse carcasses found on Vernon-area farm where owner charged with animal cruelty - InfoNews

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Horse carcasses found on Vernon-area farm where owner charged with animal cruelty

The scene at Carla Christman's Irish Creek Road property the morning after a fire, March 15, 2019.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Adam Proskiw
June 11, 2019 - 6:00 AM

VERNON - In a case described by one of the veterinarians investigating as "the worst situation" she'd seen in 30 years, a judge has ruled horses seized from Carla Christman's North Okanagan property will remain in the hands of the B.C. SPCA until an appeal on the matter is heard in court.

Christman had requested the horses not be adopted out until an appeal she has launched against the seizure goes to court. She also requested the horses be either returned to her Irish Creek Road property or put in cheaper boarding.

At the Vernon courthouse June 7, Justice Steven Wilson did grant Christman part of the injunction, putting a hold on the B.C. SPCA adopting the animals out, but dismissed both options put forward by Christman that the horses be returned to her property or put in cheaper boarding. The judge's decision leaves Christman on the hook for more than $400 a day boarding fees charged by the SPCA.

Representing herself in court, Christman argued the B.C. SPCA costs were too high and presented a Kijiji ad for cheaper boarding. Justice Wilson dismissed the ad, stating it was not sufficient evidence.

The decision made by Justice Wilson comes after Christman launched a civil suit against the B.C. SPCA, the B.C. Farm Industry Review Board and the Attorney General of B.C.

On March 25 the B.C SPCA removed 42 horses, four dogs and four pigs from Christman's farm on Irish Creek Road, outside of Vernon. Five days later three sheep and one pig were also removed. Christman and her daughter Chelsea Beluse-Christman were ultimately charged with causing unnecessary pain and suffering to an animal, and failing to provide the necessaries for an animal, as well as other charges in May.

Of the 42 horses seized, 27 horses and one foal remain with the B.C. SPCA, the rest are no longer in its care.

Following the seizure, the B.C. SPCA informed Christman April 11 the animals would not be returned to her. Christman appealed the decision with the B.C. Farm Industry Review Board a day later but lost after a two-day tribunal held in May.

The tribunal's decision May 29, reveals a history of neglected animals on the farm, along with decomposing animal corpses and states that Christman failed to act after several verbal warnings were given.

According to the decision, in July 2018 a section of a fence that separates Christman's property with land owned by the Okanagan Indian Band was damaged and some of Christman's cattle and horses escaped. In October that year, Christman received a letter from the Band stating it had captured the horses and shipped them to an auction in Kamloops. The Band was seeking compensation for the capture, transport and boarding of 34 horses. Christman was unable to negotiate a resolution to the situation.

The decision states the Band informed Christman in November that on the way back from Kamloops the horses had been dropped off on Crown land 26 kilometres from Highway 97 on Pinaus Lake Road. Christman then retrieved 32 horses in several stages over the winter. The horses were at various stages of health when they returned to Christman's property.

The B.C. SPCA received numerous complaints from the public about the situation and visited the farm in December 2018. Five visits followed over the months before the animals were seized March 25.

Vets who attended the site described the property as "decrepit" and littered with garbage and debris. The decision states two rotting horse carcasses were found in a barn on the property, along with three dead pigs. It later says the pigs probably died from starvation. One vet says the pigs were feeding on the rotting horse carcasses. On a health scale of one to nine, several horses were deemed by vets at level one.

According to the tribunal's decision, the hearing was "challenging" with Christman "often emotional, argumentative and loud." Christman disputes this saying she found it difficult to hear the tribunal hearing over the phone and that she has an auditory processing disability.

Christman also denied starving her horses and says they came home in a starved state. Christman argued the horses were in this condition because they'd been seized by the Okanagan Indian Band and it would take time for the animals to regain their strength, especially over the wintertime. She claimed she was following veterinary advice on their feeding and providing shelter.

Christman argued she had bought hay for the horses and the pigs were "free-ranging." Christman also says the horse carcasses were left because she did not have a backhoe or tractor and normally they would have been buried, but being winter there were few disposal options.

In Christman's petition to the court to appeal the ruling, she said the B.C. SPCA failed to investigate her complaint against the Band for leaving her horses on Crown land. She also alleged the B.C. SPCA vet was biased and that the warrant issued to seize the animals was "full of misinformation... blatant lies... and bias." Christman also said "the SPCA had no reason to seize all of the animals and the seizure was wrong."

She argued seizing the animals was an infringement of her Charter rights.

Christman also alleged in the court document once "media pressure" began at the beginning of February, 2019 and said the Animal Liberation Front flew drones over her property and is "possibly responsible for the burning of our houses." Christman's property was destroyed by fire March 15.

The Farm Review Board did, however, allow the four dogs seized to be returned to Christman after she paid $4,500 in boarding costs and met several conditions.

Christman was back in court today, June 10, applying to have the bail conditions of her criminal charges changed, to allow her to have her dogs returned. The case, however, was adjourned to a later date.

Along with the allegation of abuse, the decision stated Christman will have to pay almost $65,000 to cover the B.C. SPCA's costs. The B.C. SPCA also said they did not pursue Christman in 2009 when their costs ran to over $158,000 after they seized 28 horses, 36 dogs, four cats and a pig from her property. Christman was convicted of criminal charges in the case.

Christman refused to comment when asked to do so by iNFOnews.ca.

Christman's appeal is to scheduled to be back in court Aug. 1.


To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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