Missing eyes, broken limbs: 66 dogs seized in puppy mill probe
Published Tuesday, February 9, 2016 9:59AM PST Last Updated Wednesday, February 10, 2016 7:10PM PST
B.C. animal welfare officials say they have shut down a sophisticated puppy mill ring where purebred dogs were raised in horrific conditions and sold for thousands of dollars to unsuspecting consumers.
The SPCA seized a total of 66 “neglected and sick” dogs and puppies after executing a warrant on the rural property of a Langley dog breeder on Feb. 4.
A total of 32 adult dogs and 34 puppies are now being treated around the clock by veterinarians. The breeds are highly sought after by adopters, including Old English sheepdogs, Bernese mountain dogs, soft-coated Wheaton terriers, standard and miniature poodles and Portuguese water dogs.
The dogs have serious health and psychological issues, including “broken limbs, missing ears and eyes, infections and abscesses, malnourishment, dental disease, severe matting, fur caked in dried feces and overgrown nails,” said spokesperson Marcie Moriarty.
The SPCA is calling the raid one of the largest puppy mill seizures in its history, and one of the most disturbing.
“This was a very sophisticated, family-run operation, and the individuals claiming ownership have ties to sub-standard breeding investigations across the border,” Moriarty said.
The agency was alerted to the breeder after receiving a tip from a member of the public.
Investigators say the canines were kept in “deplorable” conditions, with dogs packed into crates and stacked into unheated and dark buildings. Investigators say there were dangerous levels of ammonia in the buildings due to the high concentration of urine, and had to don Hazmat gear to remove the animals.
Most of the pups are unsocialized, according to Moriarty, who says many are fearful of human contact because they were isolated.
The unnamed Langley breeder is accused of running a large breeding mill where designer dogs are sacrificed “on the altar of profit,” said Moriarty, adding that the operator took in large sums of money for each pup sold.
According to court documents, Portugese Whoodles and Bernese puppies were being sold online for $1,500, while Whoodles were advertised for $1,300.
Though the puppies are adopted out quickly to homes, the dogs used to produce litters are left behind, and suffer the most, according to cruelty investigator Eileen Drever.
“You look at the moms down there and it’s heartbreaking to see that they’ve been used over and over again to make money,” Drever said.
The SPCA was alerted to the property by a concerned member of the public who went there to inquire about a seven-week-old terrier puppy, according to court records.
The woman told the SPCA she was concerned about the living conditions of the animals, and reported a strong odour of urine and feces -- adding that she heard barking coming from a tarped off building and barn away from the home.
A search warrant obtained by CTV News lists the owners of the Langley property as Maria and Glenn Lawlor, and reveals there have been multiple complaints against them dating back to 2009 -- in both B.C. and Washington State.
The complaints include allegedly having large numbers of dogs confined to crates, animals that did not have adequate shelter, and some that were tied to trees unless used for breeding.
But the SPCA alleges the breeders managed to move animals off their property and hide them when officers tried to perform inspections.
The warrant indicates that the Lawlors sold dogs through a number of business and kennel names, including Family Kennels in Langley, which listed Bernese Mountain puppies for sale. As of Wednesday night, the website was shut down.
The Lawlors have worked with their daughter Tarasa Shivley and her husband James, who were convicted of cruelty south of the border in Whatcom County and banned from owning and possessing dogs in Washington State, according to the court documents.
The SPCA is preparing its report to Crown and will be recommending charges under the Criminal Code. The highest penalty is a $75,000 fine, five years in prison and a lifetime ban on owning animals.
It is urging potential adopters to educate themselves about the red flags of puppy mills, and what the difference is between legitimate operators and backyard breeders. Reputable breeders will always be able to show you where the animals are kept, and introduce you to all of their animals, said Drever.
The dogs seized in Langley will continue to receive constant care at the SPCA, and are not currently available for adoption.
It is asking for donations of blankets, towels and dog beds to keep the brood warm and comfortable.
Donations can be dropped off at the Vancouver SPCA shelter at 1205 East 7th Avenue.