The owners of nine pit bulls seized by the SPCA last year have lost an appeal to bring their dogs home and will also have to pay their operational and veterinary costs.
An SPCA constable seized the pit bulls from owners Chris Pratt and Kevin Rauch on Dec. 30, 2021, following multiple complaints that the dogs were tethered to dog houses outside in extreme cold temperatures. The owners had appealed to the BC Farm Industry Review Board to have the dogs returned.
The seizure followed a complaint on Dec. 23 by a paramedic who responded by ambulance to the owner’s Clearwater property after Pratt had a heart attack the night before. Paramedic Jody Ebert called the SPCA after observing the dogs outside, tied to small dog houses in -20 C weather. She noted one dog’s ribs were showing and was very thin.
Six days later, two special provincial constables (SPC), Leah Dodd and Dan Chapman, visited the property. The nine dogs were still tethered to small dog houses, and had no access to food or water, according to the review board decision. The constables provided property owner Stephanie Briscoe with a written notice requiring her and Pratt to provide food and water to the dogs, as well as bring them inside. Briscoe asked the constables to leave the premises.
The next day, the special provincial constables, along with Clearwater RCMP Const. Meyer, obtained a warrant to access the property and seize the animals, as the notice requirements had not been met. A temperature gun used inside two of the dog’s houses measured -19 and -12 C, the decision noted.
“Some dogs had stainless-steel bowls of frozen water,” the decision reads. “All were shivering, most were paw lifting, and some were attempting to drink water from the frozen bowls.”
There were 12 dogs in total on the property, three of which were kept inside. Rauch approached the group and noted that five of the dogs chained outside were his and that he lived on the property in another trailer. He was arrested by Const. Meyer for multiple warrants.
The constables were unable to determine ownership of the dogs during their visit. In the back of the police cruiser, Rauch was asked if he would surrender any of the dogs but was dismissive and “continuously changing his story” about which dogs were his, according to the decision.
The dogs were immediately taken to a veterinary clinic in Kamloops. An examination found all dogs suffered from dehydration, and had mild skin infections, among other ailments. Two had frostbite at the tips of their ears.
At the hearing, the owners claimed the dogs were not in distress, and they were outside of their homes because of the special provincial constables’ visit to the property. Briscoe also claimed the dog houses were heated, and she didn’t provide food because of rodents.
The review board upheld the decision that the animals were in distress at the time of the seizure and ruled against the owners’ request to return the dogs.
Rauch, who was later found to own eight of the dogs, was ordered to pay $11,816.88 in costs to the SPCA. Pratt, who owns the last dog, was ordered to pay the remaining $1,477.11.