The applications of a North Okanagan mother and daughter to vary bail conditions related to animal cruelty charges were adjourned in Vernon court Monday.
Carla Christman and her daughter Chelsea Christman-Beluse are each facing a charge of causing unnecessary pain/suffering to an animal, failing to provide necessities for an animal and wilfully resisting or obstructing a peace officer. Carla is also facing a charge of dangerous operation of a conveyance.
A total of 43 horses, plus four dogs and four hogs, were seized from Christman’s Irish Creek Road property in March 2019.
Following the seizure, the B.C. SPCA informed Christman that the animals would not be returned to her. Christman then appealed the decision with the B.C. Farm Industry Review Board. In May, she lost the case after a two-day tribunal. Evidence showed that there were two rotting horse carcasses found on her property and pigs were feeding on them. Christman asserted they had died of natural causes.
According to B.C. Farm Industry Review Board documents: “The fact that horses and pigs died of starvation and were simply left on this property cannot be ignored. Hazards and rotting carcasses remained on the property for months; shelter was lacking and inadequate for the number of horses especially weakened horses.”
However, the board did note the dogs were seized mainly because they were “agitated, chasing the horses, and otherwise interfering with the investigation.
“We see the Appellant’s treatment of the dogs in a different light than that of her livestock. The dogs were not reliant on hay and as such, did not suffer in the same way as the livestock,” reads the document, noting the dogs seemed to be in good condition according to the veterinarian.
Carla appeared in court at 2 p.m. in a wheelchair to represent herself. She told Provincial Court Judge Richard Hewson that she submitted her application in order to have care and control over the four seized dogs again.
Chelsea, who did not attend, was represented by defence lawyer Joe Deuling.
Deuling said that he had just been retained and suggested that Chelsea’s application be adjourned to a later date.
Despite this, Carla said she preferred to proceed with her application because “the dogs really do want to have contact with [them].”
Carla said the dogs have been returned to the care of a friend and are being held in kennels.
“It’s not fair to them to leave them in that situation,” she said.
However, Hewson said that if Chelsea’s application was being adjourned, Carla’s should also be adjourned since they are similar.
The matters were put over to the provincial case manager’s office on June 19 to fix a new date for proceedings.
Meanwhile outside the courthouse Monday, a small group protested the Christmans from owning animals.
Brenda Tonasket organized the rally on short notice and said she will be here every time they appear in court going forward. She is the Christmans’ neighbour, who lives two miles away, and reported them to the SPCA in February before the SPCA laid charges in December.
Once a week she said she drives up and takes pictures of their horses.
“Two times is bad enough. Can’t have a third time of animal abuse,” said Tonasket.