Sask. woman who had more than 100 cats in home-based shelter guilty of putting animals in distress

The Saskatchewan Alley Cats Association founder may have a “big heart,” but she is still guilty of bringing animals into distress, a provincial judge ruled.

Dolores LaPlante of Elrose, Sask., Was found guilty last week during a court hearing in the nearby Rosetown community. She was charged with the removal of 106 cats, two dogs and a turtle from her 400-square-foot home in January 2019.

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“The size of Ms. LaPlante’s house was completely insufficient to feed the number of cats and resulted in clearly unsanitary conditions and poor air quality,” said Chief Judge Shannon Metivier in a written decision.

The court heard that many of the cats had serious communicable diseases. During the search warrant, a veterinarian heard cats coughing and sneezing.

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Dolores LaPlante had more than 100 cats in her pet home in Elrose, Sask.

Phil Bollman / Global News

During the trial, LaPlante claimed the cats were happy and healthy and could be adopted from their home. She also argued during a voir dire that information about obtaining a search warrant document (ITO) wrongly indicated she was a “mad cat lady”.

LaPlante was originally charged with cruelty to animals and neglect under the Criminal Code, but those charges were suspended during the trial. She was convicted of a non-criminal offense under the Saskatchewan Animal Welfare Act.

“Having a big heart is not a defense under the law,” wrote Metivier. “MS. LaPlante had a responsibility not to take in more cats than she could adequately house and care for.”

The judge said the conditions in LaPlantes house were “a situation that she created”.

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In his 15 years with Saskatchewan’s Animal Protection Services, General Manager Don Ferguson said the case was among the five worst conditions he has seen.

“Animal rights officials saw conditions that were certainly unsanitary,” Ferguson told Global News. “Urine and feces accumulated on the floor for several days.”

The officers wore full personal protective equipment but still suffered ammonia burns or rashes. They needed treatment from doctors themselves, Ferguson said.

The judge fined LaPlante $ 400, plus a life limit of two dogs and three cats. Animal welfare officials can also conduct house searches without an arrest warrant, provided they report it 48 hours in advance.

A picture from Dolores LaPlante’s home in Elrose, Sask.

Saskatchewan Animal Welfare Services / Supplied

“A lifetime, number-capping ban in Saskatchewan was unknown until recently,” Ferguson said.

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The restriction effectively ensures the end of LaPlante’s pet home, despite telling Global News that Alley Cats have not taken in any new animals in the past two years.

Answer from LaPlante

In an interview on Friday, LaPlante said her health had deteriorated in recent years. It has been almost three years since the animals were removed from their home.

“That just destroyed me,” LaPlante said in an interview. “It just breaks my heart and you don’t recover from it.”

The founder said the organization still has 26 foster cats that the organization plans to adopt. She said the process could take a year or two, but Sask Alley Cats will disband once the cats are adopted.

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LaPlante said she has rescued more than 8,000 cats since her surgery began in 1996. In 1998 she completed the animal technology program at the Kelsey Institute.

“Now I look back with my ailing health and all and it doesn’t even seem to be possible,” said LaPlante.

The court heard that the cat population at Alley Cats was typically between 60 and 80. The number rose to around 150 cats and kittens between 2017 and 2018.

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Criminal record

In 2011, animal welfare officials took around 70 animals – mostly cats – from LaPlante’s home in Elrose.

She pleaded guilty to bringing animals into distress while an animal neglect charge was on hold.

In 2013, a judge fined her $ 250.

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