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Hog barn owners face multiple charges

'Extremely unusual case': chief veterinary officer

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A total of 23 charges have been laid against a pair of hog-barn operators in a case of alleged animal cruelty the province’s chief vet says is the most extensive he’s ever seen.

The charges laid under the province’s Animal Care Act and regulations involve a Notre Dame de Lourdes couple who ran a hog barn that burned down in June, shortly after police launched an investigation into the operation.

Court documents name Martin Albert Joseph Grenier and Dolores Donna Grenier of the R.M. of Lorne as co-accused in the case.

More than 2,000 hogs were found at the barn after an RCMP investigation June 18. Roughly 400 of the animals were dead or dying, while another 160 were later destroyed.

The hogs were owned by a nearby Hutterite colony, which alerted the RCMP after colony members were denied access to the animals.

The barn went up in flames less than a week later, a blaze described as suspicious by a spokesman for the Office of the Fire Commissioner.

Charges laid this week include:

  • failure to provide adequate food and water to more than 2,000 pigs,
  • failing to provide adequate medical attention to hundreds of wounded or ill animals, and
  • confining more than 2,400 animals in a space with inadequate ventilation, according to court documents.

The couple also stand accused of inflicting "serious injury or harm" on 10 pigs, the documents state, and failing to consult a vet on the death of more than 200 animals.

Other charges relate to the condition of the facility, with court documents pointing to a slatted floor "broken in a way to allow the pigs to fall through the floor and drown," or become trapped and unable to get free.

The charges date between May 15 and June 18 of this year.

"This is an extremely unusual case," said chief veterinary officer Dr. Wayne Lees. "The vast majority of producers take great pride in their animals, and fully abide by the codes of practice and animal welfare standards."

Lees wouldn’t discuss details of the investigation, but said the case is more extensive than any he’s seen before.

"I’ve never come across one that involved this many animals in my career," he said.

The couple is set to appear in court in December.

The offences occurred prior to recently proclaimed amendments to the Animal Care Act, meaning maximum penalties are up to six months in prison or up to $5,000 per charge, rather than the steeper, up to $10,000 figure now in place for a first offence.

An investigation into the case by Crystal City RCMP is "still active and ongoing," said RCMP spokesman Const. Mile Hiebert.

Hiebert said he’s been told investigators are awaiting consultation from the Crown regarding further charges.

lindsey.wiebe@freepress.mb.ca

History

Updated on Thursday, November 4, 2010 at 3:42 PM CDT: Updated with details on charges, comments from RCMP.

4:03 PM: Adds photo.

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