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Okanagan rancher facing animal cruelty charges fights for horses

A north Okanagan rancher facing animal cruelty charges is fighting to get some of her animals back.

As the legal wrangling continues, more information is emerging on the details of the case.

In March, the BCSPCA removed dozens of animals, including over 40 horses, from a ranch on Irish Creek Road, arguing the animals were in distress.

The rancher, Carla Christman, and her adult daughter were subsequently charged with animal cruelty and obstruction offences.

Christman turned to the BC Farm Industry Review Board, challenging the SPCA’s decision to keep the seized animals.

According to review board documents, she claimed the seizure was unjust, arguing the animals were not in distress nor did she harm or neglect them.

Review board documents say dozens of the family’s horses escaped through a destroyed fence last year and were seized by a neighbouring jurisdiction which dropped them off on crown land.

The review board heard testimony that by the time the horses were retrieved, at least some of them were in poor shape.

Ultimately, the review board concluded all the animals were properly seized and only four dogs should be returned.

“The fact that horses and pigs died of starvation and were simply left on this property cannon be ignored,” the review board wrote in its decision.

“All animals, including dogs, were exposed to these hazards.”

The review board notes that Christman disputes the the board’s findings, denying the horses’ and pigs’ deaths were the result of starvation and blaming the horses’ conditions on others, saying the animals came home from crown land in a starved state.

The board did rule the family’s seized dogs should be returned because, “the primary reason the dogs were taken into custody was in large part due to the disturbance they created at the time of seizure.”

However, Christman has now launched a civil court challenge to the board’s decision to uphold most of the animal seizures.

She is seeking to get her horses back, claiming her family has been treated unfairly.

Last week, Christman was granted an injunction preventing the SPCA from adopting out any more of her horses for the time being.

That injunction will continue until either August 1, 2019, or until a judicial review of the seizure takes place — whichever comes first.

However, Christman is required to pay the SPCA $12,000 a month to keep the horses in the meantime.

If she doesn’t pay, the SPCA is no longer required to keep the horses.

The injunction decision only sets the stage for further legal battles to come.

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