October 20th, 2020

Dog prohibition focus of Irving sentencing

By Shurtz, Delon on October 24, 2019.

Delon Shurtz

lethbridge herald


April Dawn Irving won’t serve any time in jail for causing distress to dogs in her care, but she may be prohibited from owning more dogs for the rest of her life.

The Crown and defence have recommended Irving, 59, be fined nearly $18,000 on four counts under the Animal Protection Act of causing distress to dogs, to which she pleaded guilty in July. But the lawyers don’t agree on a prohibition order. Crown prosecutor Tyler Raymond is seeking a lifetime prohibition, while Lethbridge lawyer Bjoern Wolkmann is asking for something less than life.

Wolkmann told a judge Wednesday during a sentencing hearing in Lethbridge provincial court that his client is barely coping without her dogs, and “just deals with it on a day-to-day basis.”

Although Irving can only be fined under the Animal Protection Act, if she fails to pay her fines she would normally serve default time of five months in jail. However, the Crown and defence told Judge Derek Redman the time Irving has already spent in custody should be put toward the fines, effectively satisfying the default time and concluding the matter without Irving paying any money or spending anymore time behind bars.

Redman is expected to give his decision on prohibition in December.

Irving was charged in 2015 after she surrendered 60 dogs from a property near Milk River and the SPCA later seized another 106.

Reading from an agreed statement of facts the day Irving pleaded guilty, Raymond said most of the dogs were tethered to chains between three and six feet long and tethered in pairs. Some were near wooden shelters, which were covered in snow drifts and inaccessible. Several dogs sought shelter under a vehicle and several more didn’t have any shelter.

A poorly ventilated van contained six puppies, and the floor was covered in a thick layer of feces and frozen urine. Irving’s fifth-wheel trailer, in which she was living, contained a mix of adult female dogs and their puppies, as well as unweaned puppies from other females.

“The trailer was completely filthy with debris, hair, urine and feces,” Raymond said. “The smell of ammonia and feces in the trailer was very strong, and outside of the trailer was a pile of miscellaneous items and the bodies of several newborn dead dogs. All carcasses were frozen solid.”

Raymond described it as one of the most comprehensive and voluminous animal distress cases in Canada’s history.

Irving was initially charged with one count of animal cruelty under the Criminal Code and 13 counts under the Animal Protection Act. She was released from custody shortly after she was charged and ordered to have a psychological assessment as an outpatient. She never had the assessment, then failed to appear in court Feb. 19, 2016 and a warrant was issued for her arrest. The woman had reportedly fled to Jamaica, but she was finally arrested in December of last year in Manitoba and returned to Lethbridge the following month.

In February Irving was sent to the Southern Alberta Forensic Psychiatry Centre in Calgary for a court-ordered assessment to determine whether she was, at the time of the commission of the alleged offences, suffering from a mental disorder so as to be exempt from criminal responsibility. The assessment, received by the court in April, determined she could be held criminally responsible for the offences she faced.

Arguing against a lifetime prohibition against owning dogs, Wolkmann said Wednesday Irving was simply naive when she believed she could care for so many dogs. He said she wasn’t running a puppy mill, and kept the dogs because she had “too much love” for them.

Irving spoke extensively during the hearing, and while most of her comments bounced confusingly from one subject to another, she told Redman her dogs are part of her family.

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