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Pit bull puppies taken by SPCA in bizarre North Okanagan case of alleged 'puppy mill'

Okanagan Community Watch posted this photo and description to its Facebook page July 17, 2017.
Image Credit: Facebook
July 19, 2017 - 12:17 PM

'WE ARE TRYING TO DETERMINE OWNERSHIP. WE ARE TRYING TO DETERMINE A WHOLE LOT OF STUFF HERE.'

NORTH OKANAGAN - An animal cruelty investigation is underway over a suspected pit bull puppy mill in the region, but SPCA efforts have been complicated by amateurs who appear to have seized the dogs without authorities.

Investigators were alerted to the 'puppy mill' after an Okanagan group claimed on Facebook it was trying find homes for 30 pit bull puppies — and neither the mill or the seizure of puppies were reported to the SPCA.

SPCA senior animal protection officer Kathy Woodward says they are still trying to determine the full circumstances of the situation, but confirms that 15 pit bulls, including five adults and ten puppies, were taken into the SPCA’s custody July 18 at an undisclosed location in the North Okanagan. At least some of the dogs had malnutrition issues resulting in hair loss. 

“I can say that an investigation was launched after it was reported that this group posted that (it was re-homing dogs),” Woodward says. “A cruelty investigation was launched and… as a result 15 dogs came into our care.”

She says roughly 20 other dogs were initially reported as well but remain unaccounted for as of July 19.

“We would like to determine the welfare of the other dogs that have been reported to us as being part of this group,” Woodward says.

The group Okanagan Community Watch first posted about the puppies on July 17, stating: “puppy mill took down, I have 30 pure bred blue nose pit (bull) puppies that need homes, (they're) 10 weeks and need love and good home I will personally be checking up on these dogs to make sure there going to good loving homes... they're free but will need shots all I want is for them to be loved.”

Woodward confirms the SPCA was not involved in any recent seizures from a puppy mill in the area and says the organization only became aware of the situation after Okanagan Community Watch began posting about the 30 puppies on Facebook.

Okanagan Community Watch has not responded to messages or phone calls about the puppies or where they came from. In a Facebook post, the group said operators of the mill “had a minor heads up before they arrived”, but did not provide details about how they got onto the property, when they did so, or where the alleged puppy mill was located. On July 18, the group posted an update stating: “As pups were being transferred in Salmon Arm, someone informed dog control and all puppies have been seized by the Salmon Arm police, dog control and SPCA. We are currently working with them to have the dogs released as we have lined up more than enough caring homes for them so they don't have to be placed in the system but are ultimately at their mercy.”

Later that night, the group posted again, this time stating that an animal cruelty investigation was pending and some of the dogs were being processed as evidence.

“We are awaiting a call-back from (Salmon Arm) RCMP and SPCA management as to the return of the remaining puppies into our care as we have already found loving homes for half of them through immediate family & friends that can be vouched for on the spot,” the group said.

While Woodward says the dogs do appear to have come from a puppy breeding facility, she could not provide exact details about where they came from, when, or how they were removed from the property.

“We are trying to determine ownership. We are trying to determine a whole lot of stuff here,” she says.

She cautions groups in general against taking animal cruelty cases into their own hands because it can jeopardize SPCA investigations.

“If it comes to us after, the evidence has pretty much been destroyed. We can’t go back there three weeks later and look into where they came from because the owner can say, ‘it wasn’t like this when they (dogs) were here.’ It’s important that we go in and do our own investigation to get the evidence from where they came from.”

She says it’s also essential to get a full report from the vet attesting to the animal’s condition when it was seized.

She also says there could be legal implications depending on how the dogs were taken from the property.

“If they just went in and took the dogs, that’s theft and they’re selling stolen property,” she says. “I would certainly look into the legalities of taking them, how they were acquired, and whether they have the legal rights to re-home them, and the necessary resources to care for them. In most cases, animals that come from places like that are compromised and do need ongoing vet care.”

She says the 15 pit bulls taken into the care of the SPCA will be vet-checked and held for several weeks due to the ongoing investigation before they can be adopted out. Anyone interested is advised to keep an eye on the SPCA’s webpage for adoption postings.

The Facebook group Okanagan Community Watch was previously known as Soldiers of Odin but underwent a name change earlier this year.


To contact a reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston 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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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2017
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