R v Battaglio, 2020 BCPC 45

The accused was charged with two counts of causing or permitting an animal to be in distress under section 24(1) of the provincial Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. The charges related to two alpacas, Mo and Oye Vey aka Samantha, and one rooster after the Powell River SPCA became involved in response to complaints of animal maltreatment and removed nine alpacas, one llama, and five chickens from the property.

As the charges are strict liability offences, the Crown must prove the actus reus beyond a reasonable doubt while the accused must prove that she took all reasonable care in all circumstances of the animals on a balance of probabilities under the defence of due diligence.

The Crown’s position was that the accused had permitted the alpacas to starve due to severe neglect, and emphasized that animals are vulnerable and rely on their owners to take proper care, like children or elderly who are reliant on adults for care. The rooster was in distress due to the accused’s failure to follow the SPCA notice regarding treatment recommendations. Although the other animals under the accused’s care were not found to be in distress, their care was inadequate based on their body condition which had been scored as below average.

Defence counsel admitted that based on the evidence, the court would likely find Mo to have been in distress, but argued that there should be reasonable doubt regarding the other alpaca in question had been in distress or that the accused had known they were in distress. The accused claimed that she had taken the rooster to be euthanized the day after receiving the SPCA Notice, thus doing her due diligence.

The court weighed the lengthy evidence and submissions, and determined that the accused’s testimony was not credible, the Crown had proven that the accused had knowingly permitted distress in the animals involved. The accused was found guilty.