Police charge Digby puppy seller SPCA finalizing animal-related charges By BRIAN MEDEL Yarmouth Bureau Tue. Oct 30 - 6:00 AM
DIGBY — A woman whom the RCMP forcibly removed from her home Friday so SPCA officers could look for sick puppies has been charged with obstruction and mischief.
Gail Ruth Benoit, 38, of Roxville, Digby County, will appear in Digby provincial court on Dec. 10.
Provincial SPCA investigators are still finalizing animal-related charges that should be ready this week, said Pam Keddy, president of the Nova Scotia SPCA.
Ten puppies were taken from Ms. Benoit's blue bungalow and garage on Highway 217, two on Wednesday and eight more on Friday. Ms. Keddy confirmed Monday that testing on the seized dogs revealed an intestinal virus linked to unsanitary living conditions.
"What we're hoping to achieve by laying these charges and going to court is to get a prohibition . . . of (dog) ownership," Ms. Keddy said.
The SPCA is also seeking out people who may have bought littermates of the seized puppies.
"One of those dogs is a German shepherd mix," Ms. Keddy said. "That was one of a litter of 10. So there were nine other puppies that would have been purchased from her.
"Also, there was an 11-month-old black cocker spaniel that we had listed on our warrant that had been sold before we exercised it."
People who have bought puppies from the Digby-area woman are asked to contact the SPCA, Ms. Keddy said. The organization's web address is www.spcans.ca.
Ms. Benoit would not talk about her dogs or the charges she faces when contacted by phone Monday.
"I've got nothing to say to you," she said. "Call my lawyer. Have a nice day."
Fran Morrison of Port Caledonia, Cape Breton, bought a puppy from Ms. Benoit last spring. She told The Chronicle Herald that she believes a veterinary medical health record that came with her pup is a forgery.
Ms. Morrison tried to call Ms. Benoit about the dog and the medical record.
"After the puppy arrived, she wouldn't pick up her phone," Ms. Morrison said.
"My daughter contacted her over the Internet. . . . She told my daughter she was getting a purebred Pomeranian.
"And when the puppy arrived, it was definitely no purebred. It's a mixture between a Pom and a chihuahua," she said.
The puppy had worms but otherwise seemed fine.
Ms. Morrison said the medical record that accompanied the puppy contained an inoculation report Scotch-taped inside a blank animal health record folder. The record is dated last March 2 and distemper, adenovirus, parvovirus and leptospirosis are checked off.
"It's not a real vet record," Ms. Morrison said.
Staff at two veterinary clinics in and near Digby said Monday the record would not have come from them.
Ms. Morrison said she paid $520 for a dog she could have bought at the local animal shelter. She still has the black and tan dog, named Cha Cha, which arrived in Cape Breton in a shuttle van.
She said she reported her concerns about Ms. Benoit, including the suspicious medical record, to Digby RCMP last April or May.
"They said they would check into her. They knew of her."
She never heard from them again.
Another Cape Breton woman paid Ms. Benoit $800 for a dog and didn't even receive a medical record.
"She sells them out of The Sunday Herald and she sells them out of our local (bargain flyer)," said Lynn O'Flaherty of New Waterford.
"She doesn't use a name. She uses her phone number.
"My life's work right now is to make sure she doesn't get back into this."
Their puppy, Tigger, appeared to be fine when he arrived last December but he soon began to have seizures.
"We noticed things like him banging into walls," Ms. O'Flaherty said.
"I called the shuttle service who delivered Tigger to me to let him know what was going on and he told me that in the previous six months he had delivered between 40 and 50 pups to my area alone," she said.
Tigger is dead now.
"We could no longer control the grand mal seizures," Ms. O'Flaherty said. "We had him put down at the ripe old age of seven months."
One Cape Breton shuttle service said it will no longer carry animals for Ms. Benoit.
Brennan's Shuttle has had a new owner since August and has carried only one dog for the Digby County woman, spokesman Chad McPhee said. The company learned from the SPCA that the dog was likely sick.
The shuttle van had to be cleaned inside with a bleach solution, vacuumed twice and then steam-cleaned, costing the company a day's work, Mr. McPhee said.
"That was around the first . . . or the second week of September," he said.
"She was told, no more."