Winlaw man charged with animal cruelty

The SPCA seized 29 animals on January 28.

A number of animals have been seized from the property of John Vieira of Winlaw. (The person in this photo submitted by the SPCA is not Vieira.)

A Slocan Valley man has been charged with animal cruelty for the fourth time, following a BC SPCA seizure of 29 animals from a property near Winlaw on Thursday.

Crown counsel has charged Joao (John) Vieira with three counts of animal cruelty under the Criminal Code of Canada just days after a team of BC SPCA constables took Vieira’s animals into custody and presented their evidence to Crown. Nine sheep, seven goats, four horses, five large-breed dogs, two puppies, one cow and one rooster in various states of distress were rescued by the SPCA officers. The carcasses of dead horses, a bull and a goat were also found on the property.

Marcie Moriarty, chief prevention and enforcement officer for the BC SPCA, says Vieira has been the focus of several SPCA investigations during recent years and has three previous animal cruelty convictions. “He has also been charged four times with breaching conditions of his sentencing, the most recent charge coming yesterday for violating a ban on owning animals.”

Moriarty says the 29 animals seized were being kept in overcrowded and inadequate conditions and were underweight and suffering from a range of medical issues, including parasites, abscesses, heart problems, infections, overgrown nails, dental issues and eye infections.

The livestock are now being cared for at foster boarding facilities and the dogs and puppies are in the care of the Kelowna SPCA, where they are on a protective hold and will receive on-going veterinary care before going up for adoption.

Vieira will be in court on March 8.

SPCA spokeswoman Tricia Leslie said in an email that the only way they can enforce court-ordered bans is to catch offenders with animals and recommend charges of breaching conditions.

“We can do spot checks but that is only if we can find them,” she said, adding that in Vieira’s case, he moved often, making it difficult for their constables.

“In addition, the BC SPCA’s resources are limited, as we respond to 10,000 reports of animal cruelty each year, with just 28 constables in the province.”

Leslie insisted the organization has done its best to monitor Vieira, which has resulted in him being charged multiple times.

“Unfortunately there’s little to do about keeping animals from getting into repeat offenders’ hands,” she said.

“Because there’s no one registry, for example, from which people purchase animals, he can’t be flagged. He’s flagged in our systems, but he can source animals from a number of different areas. The BC SPCA hopes that if he is convicted this time the sentence is so significant that it deters him from breaching his ban in future.”

The BC SPCA is funded primarily by public donations.

Initial estimates for medical care and special diets needed by the underweight animals come to approximately $20,000. If you can help, the BC SPCA would be grateful for donations at spca.bc.ca/medicalemergency.

The BC SPCA would also appreciate donations of high quality hay for the livestock. If you can help, please contact Rob Andrew, manager, BC SPCA Nelson Branch, 250-352-7178, nelson@spca.bc.ca.

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