Brenda Tonasket was among a group of protesters who rallied in front of the Vernon Law Courts prior to an appearance by Carla Jean Christman and her daughter Chelsea Beluse-Christman in August 2019. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)

Brenda Tonasket was among a group of protesters who rallied in front of the Vernon Law Courts prior to an appearance by Carla Jean Christman and her daughter Chelsea Beluse-Christman in August 2019. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)

Vernon-area duo still awaiting trial for animal abuse

Trial date expected to be set within the next three weeks

A North Okanagan mother and daughter accused of abusing dozens of animals still don’t have a trial date, but the legal process that began almost one year ago is inching forward.

Carla Christman and her daughter Chelsea Beluse-Christman face charges including unnecessary pain or suffering to an animal and failing to provide necessities for an animal.

Beluse-Christman also faces a charge of obstructing a peace officer.

None of the charges have been proven in court, and the two have pleaded not guilty to the charges.

The animals — 42 horses, four dogs and four hogs — were seized by the BC SPCA in March 2019 after two rotting horse carcasses were found on the Christmans’ Irish Creek Road property, north of Vernon.

Crown counsel and the defence lawyers attempted to establish the necessary trial length at a pre-trial conference Wednesday morning at the Vernon Law Courts.

The Crown stated it would need three days to make its case and get through 12 witnesses.

The defence said it would need more time to get through an even lengthier list of witnesses.

“I was given a list of 54 witnesses,” said Graham Kay, defence lawyer for Carla Christman.

Joe Deuling, defence counsel for Beluse-Christman, described the road to a trial date as “torturous.”

Among the various witness accounts, the trial will hear evidence from two expert veterinarians who inspected the animals.

In past court appearances, local animal rights activists have protested outside the Vernon Law Courts against the Christmans’ right to own animals.

Judge Richard Hewson said he expected a trial date to be set within the next three weeks.

Court