Dog breeder in puppy mill scandal charged
Published Tuesday, May 10, 2011 3:28PM PDT
A dog breeder accused of running a puppy mill in the Fraser Valley has now been charged with animal cruelty.
Mel Gerling and two of his staff, Damara English and Patrick English, appeared in Abbotsford provincial court Monday. They are each facing one charge of animal cruelty under the Criminal Code of Canada for causing unnecessary pain to an animal and under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act with causing an animal to continue to be in distress.
The SPCA seized 14 sick and neglected small dogs from B&B Kennels, a property in Abbotsford owned by Gerling, in September 2010. The animals suffered from a laundry list of health problems, including loose and rotting teeth, matted fur, ulcerated eyes, skin infections and genetic problems.
Marcie Moriarty, general manager of cruelty investigations with the BC SPCA, said the agency is extremely pleased that the Crown has accepted the charges.
"It was a longstanding concern of the SPCA regarding this individual and these two staff and the level of care being provided for the dogs he was profiting off of," she told ctvbc.ca.
Most troubling to SPCA officers was that many of the seized pups were found to have a luxated patella, an inherited genetic knee problem in small or toy dogs.
Moriarty said dogs with this condition are never suitable for breeding because it causes the kneecap to dislocate and can cause permanent lameness of the legs.
By his own admission, Gerling said he has been the subject of 50 compliance orders from the SPCA related to his businesses, including the pet store Puppy Paradise in Surrey, which has recently shut its doors.
In an interview with CTV News after the seizure, Gerling said he was in the process of "correcting the situation" and the SPCA "scooped the dogs out from under us." Gerling also threatened legal action to have his dogs returned.
The SPCA said it spent thousands of dollars nursing the neglected dogs back to health. The dogs -- Shih Tzus, Chihuahuas, Pugs and terrier crosses -- have all been placed in new homes.
Moriarty said they have had concerns with Gerling dating back to 2006 regarding his "substandard" care of dogs.
The SPCA said the dogs he kept in Abbotsford lived outdoors without proper shelter.
"If you define a puppy mill where dogs are being repetitively bred for profit with little to no regard for their well being, then this is a puppy mill," she said.
The SPCA is hoping to see all three accused banned from owning and breeding animals for life.
A conviction under the criminal code is also subject to a $10,000 fine and up to 18 months in prison.
Besides his Surrey store, Gerling has operated numerous kennels in recent years, operating under the name of Mountain View Kennels. The first was in Abbotsford, then Chilliwack and then in Maple Ridge.
A website for B&B Kennels says Mel Gerling has been breeding dogs for 22 years and states in underlined text it is "not a puppy mill."
"All of my puppies are raised in our home under foot and not in a kennel. They go outside to romp and play under close supervision," Gerling writes in the "about us" section.