R v Vieira, 2006 BCPC 675

In Information 75337, the accused John Vieira is charged with wilfully neglecting or failing to provide suitable and adequate food, water, shelter, and care for horses, dogs, pigs, and rabbits between March 23rd and March 26th, 2004, at or near Little Fort, British Columbia, in violation of Section 446(2) of the Criminal Code. The accused entered a not guilty plea and testified that he was away from his farm for about two weeks in March and left his animals in the care of a neighbour. The accused denies that he knowingly neglected or failed to provide suitable and adequate food, water, shelter, and care for his animals. He claims that he left enough food for the animals and expected his neighbour to feed them. 

The Crown and Defense Counsel were extremely helpful in providing Admissions of Fact to the court. The accused admits in this document, Exhibit 1, to be the beneficial owner and occupant of the farm property in Little Fort in March 2004. Mr. Vieira admits to being in charge of the farm’s animals during that time period. Mr. Vieira also admits Dr. Colin Mikkelsen’s, a doctor of veterinary medicine, and Dr. Terry McKay’s, a doctor of veterinary medicine, opinion evidence that the animals examined by the two veterinarians were in very poor physical condition. Dr. Mikkelsen and Kent Kokaska, an animal protection officer with the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, testified in court. The court also heard from John Vieira and saw a videotape and several photographs depicting the farm and the animals in question.

Dr. Mikkelsen visited the farm on March 26th, 2004, accompanied by SPCA officers. He observed and then examined nine of the ten dogs on the property. The tenth dog was later apprehended while running free on the farm. He refers to a body condition score (BCS) that he assigned to each animal after an examination in his report. This rating, which ranges from one to nine, with zero indicating complete emaciation and nine indicating obesity, describes the physical condition of the animal, including fat covering and muscling. Only one of the nine dogs he examined was normal, according to him. He gave that dog a BCS of four out of a possible nine. The remaining dogs were thin to very thin. In addition, Dr. Mikkelsen examined five horses. One black mare received a BCS of four out of nine, while the rest of the horses received one out of nine or two out of nine. He described these horses as a draught horse breed weighing between 1100 and 1200 pounds with a BCS of five out of nine. When he examined the animals, he discovered that they weighed around 800 pounds and were between 300 and 400 pounds underweight.

The court is satisfied that the Crown has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused wilfully neglected his animals between March 23rd and March 26th, 2004. On Count 1, they found the accused guilty.