Owners lose appeal to have 9 dogs returned after tying them up outdoors in -20 C weather

Pit bull seizure upheld

The owners of nine pit bulls seized by the SPCA in Clearwater, B.C. have lost their bid to have the animals returned and have been ordered to pay their veterinary and boarding bills.

The dogs were seized by an SPCA constable on Dec, 30, 2021 after they were observed tied up outside in frigid temperatures. Owners Christopher Pratt and Kevin Rauch applied through the BC Farm Industry Review Board to have them returned.

The SPCA was first alerted to the condition of the dogs after an ambulance attended the Clearwater property because Pratt had a heart attack on Dec. 23, 2021. A paramedic saw the dogs tied up outside in -20 C weather and called in the complaint the next day.

The SPCA attended the property on Dec. 27 to investigate, and while temperatures were hitting -30 C with wind chill, the dogs were still tied up outdoors.

“The dogs appeared cold, were shivering and paw lifting, and had no access to food or water. Some of the dogs were licking frozen water in their metal bowls,” the review board decision says.

The SPCA issued a written warning to the property owner Stephanie Briscoe, who demanded the SPCA officer leave. The notice was taped to the property’s front gate.

The next day the SPCA supported by the RCMP executed a search warrant on the property and found the dogs in the same condition. An SPCA officer used a temperature gun to take the temperature inside two of the dog houses, which were -19C and -21C.

During the second SPCA visit, Rauch introduced himself as the owner of five of the dogs and said he lived in a trailer on the property. He was then arrested by the RCMP on outstanding warrants.

In the back of the police cruiser, Rauch was asked if he was willing to surrender the dogs, but refused. He also “continuously” changed his story as to which dogs he owned.

At the time of the visit, the ownership of the dogs was still unclear. The SPCA officer told Briscoe that all nine dogs would be receiving veterinary care, to which she responded “please don’t – I can’t afford it.” Briscoe also refused to surrender the dogs.

The animals were taken straight to a veterinary clinic in Kamloops, which found them to be dehydrated and an incompatible breed to be living outdoors in sub-zero temperatures.

At a hearing, Briscoe represented Pratt and Rauch and disputed that the dogs were in distress. She claimed that the dog houses were heated, although the attending SPCA officers saw no evidence of that. She claimed the only reason the dogs were out of their houses was because there were strangers on the property.

She testified that they did not have food due to concern of rodents and that it was not as cold as the society claimed, saying wind chill is not a “real temperature.” She suggested the dogs’ paws were reddened not by the cold but by the non-organic straw in the dog houses.

The board ultimately ruled against the owners, and after clearing up who owned which dogs, upheld their seizure.

As a part of the ruling, Rauch, the owner of eight of the dogs was ordered to pay $11,816 in SPCA costs. Pratt, who owned one of the dogs, was told to pay $1,477.

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