Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Dog hoarder feels hurt by accusations

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A Gull Lake woman awaiting sentencing for hoarding dogs in miserable conditions professed her love for animals Thursday.

"I have never hurt an animal. I have never abused an animal. All I've done is loved an animal," Judith Chernecki, 62, told provincial court Judge Carena Roller.

"This really hurts me, because we did the best with the situation we had at the time," she said.

Her husband expressed remorse.

"I kind of regret that everything sort of went the way it went," said Peter Chernecki, 63,

"All I've done is loved an animal," hoarder tells judge

The couple previously pleaded guilty to a number of Animal Care Act violations in connection to an animal-welfare investigation on their rural property in July 2010.

Sixty-four dogs were seized from them after provincial animal protection officers and RCMP turned up to investigate an animal welfare complaint, court previously heard.

Of 64 dogs seized, 34 had to be euthanized. Seven others were sent to the Dogtown USA animal rehabilitation centre in Utah because of their severe behavioural problems.

Virtually all the hoarded dogs were living in darkness in a 672 square-foot cabin, its floor covered in a "wet paste" of straw, mud and excrement.

Investigators also uncovered a live nest of rats the dogs lived with, Crown attorney Shaun Sass has said.

Prosecutors are seeking four months of jail time for Peter Chernecki, plus thousands in fines and a lengthy period of probation.

While it is not seeking jail for Judith Chernecki, the Crown wants her to pay $26,500 in fines and serve probation.

At a hearing in November, it was revealed the couple has more than 40 cats in their care. Roller asked Judith Chernecki what her plans were for them.

She pledged they'd be well cared for, and that the felines give her "meaning and purpose." As far as the dogs, she maintained they were well fed.

At one point during her lengthy address to the court, she turned to reporters and asked directly why so much media attention was being paid to their case and not others.

Their only intent was to give stray and abandoned creatures a home, she said. "What am I supposed to do, leave them in the elements?" she asked. "I'd be just as bad as the person who abandoned them," she said.

Peter Chernecki said the situation with the dogs' conditions got out of hand because of severely wet weather and flooding at the property.

He noted the Brokenhead Ojibway community they live near had accepted the pair into their clan because of their care for animals over the years.

Roller will pass sentence on Feb. 6.

james.turner@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 24, 2014 B5

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