A Gull Lake couple who angered their neighbours by feeding black bears in the summer of 2010 and 2011 pleaded guilty Thursday to one of the worst cases of dog abuse in Manitoba history.
Peter Chernecki, 63, and his wife Judith, 62, pleaded guilty to seven counts under the Animal Care Act and Regulations.
The couple will be sentenced Sept. 17. They face maximum penalties of six months in jail and a $5,000 fine, or both, and a five-year prohibition of dog ownership.
The couple originally faced 19 charges but the rest were stayed when they entered guilty pleas to seven counts.
The charges date back to July 2010, when authorities investigated neighbours' complaints the Cherneckis were attracting black bears to cottage country by putting out food for them.
A search of the Chernecki property in Gull Lake, near Grand Beach, led to the discovery of 64 dogs being kept in such unsanitary and unsafe conditions that 34 dogs were eventually euthanized.
Winnipeg Humane Society officials said it was one the worst cases of animal abuse they had ever encountered.
The large dogs had been kept in two small cabins and were never allowed outside.
"Can you imagine having three or four large dogs in your home -- there were about 70 in two small cabins," Dr. Erika Anseeuw, the humane society's director of animal health, said.
"They were living in dog poop eight inches deep. These were deplorable conditions."
Anseeuw said the smell of ammonia was so bad that local firefighters wearing full breathing apparatus were called in to remove the dogs.
The Winnipeg Humane Society was contracted by the province to provide care for the dogs and was later appointed guardianship of the dogs.
Many of the dogs were injured, with scars, sores on their feet and inflamed eyes.
Anseeuw said the large dogs were constantly fighting with each other and many of them could not be socialized or adopted out.
Several of the dogs were so badly injured that they were immediately euthanized. The remainder were delivered to the humane society, which tried to care for the dogs and socialize them.
Seven dogs were later transferred to a shelter organization in Utah. The dogs that survived have been adopted out, Anseeuw said.
The couple was in court in March on a charge under the Wildlife Act related to feeding the bears. They had been feeding the animals for about 17 years, court heard.
The judge handed Peter Chernecki a discharge on the charge on the condition he and his wife never feed bears again.