Disturbing evidence revealed during the trial raises serious questions about the care of animals at the SPCA.
In court, there is something called ‘full disclosure’, which means that the prosecution has to present the defense with all the evidence they have gathered and present it in a timely fashion. This is a chartered right under Canadian law. Even though the SPCA broke into my home in January 2011, much of their evidence was held back and not made available to the defense until late November 2012 and, in fact, some of it wasn’t given over until the day the trial started. After reviewing the information, it became apparent why it was held back.
The SPCA vet testified that the turtle tank was in horrible condition and filthy, that one turtle even had a 2 cm spot on the shell that was infected. She also went on to describe some of the shells as being malformed. Any person with reptile experience knows that if you are given an adult turtle with a defect in its shell, there is no reasonable way to reverse the damage. While some of the turtles were over 30 years old (which attested to their having been well cared for), some of them had arrived in my care as adults. Two of the girls came to me from the Forestry Farm Zoo. Two other turtles were brought in when they were found by a truck driver. Their shells were already malformed. The SPCA could not disprove when the damage had occurred.
It was during cross-examination that the real concerns were brought into court. Signs of neglect in turtles may include discharge from the eyes and nose, congested breathing, and pink or red-tinged skin that can suggest internal infections or septicemia. Yet both the SPCA vet and their kennel staff confirmed that none of the turtles required any form of antibiotics, concentrated mineral supplements or even medicated baths when brought to the SPCA. “We just fed them lettuce and commercial turtle food. They didn’t require any other special treatment.” One would have expected some of the turtles to have shown signs of ill-treatment and/or poor health if conditions at my home were that bad.
It was testified that one turtle died on February 2, 2011. The turtle was found in the afternoon by the visiting vet and had not been noticed by the SPCA staff. A necropsy (animal autopsy) report showed the cause of death to be starvation. When asked what the weight of this animal was when it was first taken to the SPCA, both kennel staff and the vet confirmed that no weights of the turtles were taken at any time. No blood work was done to show poor health. The turtles were not even sexed as that would ‘confuse kennel staff’ and the information was not important as the animals would not be spayed or neutered anyway. The vet did not know that two of the turtles were Cumberlands and not Red Ear Sliders, because, as she admitted, she “did not know turtles that well.” The necropsy shows that the turtle was not eating at the SPCA as the SPCA claimed.
Further reports show that the SPCA had inadequate housing for the turtles. Since the SPCA did not have a tank suitable for them, the new turtle home was a small “Mr. Turtle” kiddie pool with a ramp leading from the floor to the top of the pool ledge. Kennel staff confirmed that the floor of the enclosure was hard cement with no padding available, especially under the ramp as it left the floor. As a result of this poor construction, a turtle fell off the ramp some time during the night and landed on the hard cement below. Her bloody body was found later next day along with a 4 to 6 cm deep crack along her shell. She was brought to a clinic for treatment and the ‘repair’ for the severely damaged shell was to ‘plaster’ it along the crack.
These incidents should raise concerns about the SPCA to care for some animals. It was testified that no turtle coming from Elrose required medical care and that it wasn’t until the animals were in the care of the SPCA that they needed medical attention.
The other reptile taken by the SPCA was a five-foot iguana known as ‘ChubChub’. He was over 16 years old. The vet for the SPCA testified that that was an incredible age for an iguana to reach. She had stated concerns about the iguana’s housing and health. An examination by the U of S animal clinic, revealed during cross-examination, found that the iguana had a body score of 3/5 (considered ideal) and was in good shape for his age and size. Blood work was ‘unremarkable’ and showed good calcium/phosphorus levels, proving that there was no metabolic bone disease. An iguana needs proper ultraviolet light to make Vitamin D which is needed to absorb calcium. The iguana cannot eat or digest food unless the temperature is high enough. His exam and blood work proved that he was getting that care in Elrose. The small lesion on his mouth that the SPCA mentioned did not heal under the vet’s care. I later discovered from a vet at the U of S that iguanas can carry a type of herpes virus (like the kind that causes cold sores in people) and this would be why his sore on the lip never completely heals. The sore was originally seen and treated at the U of S early in 2000.
The SPCA and their vet made a lot of claims about my care of the animals and yet it was their care that caused these animals more distress and/or death.