April Irving gets lifetime ban on owning dogs in Alberta

Warning: This story contains graphic details that may upset some readers

April Dawn Irving has been banned for life from owning dogs in the province of Alberta, in a case the Crown has called one of the largest animal cruelty cases in Canadian history.

April Dawn Irving, 59, did not appear in Lethbridge Provincial Court on Wednesday to hear the sentence delivered.

In late July, she had pleaded guilty to four counts of causing an animal to be in distress. She had initially faced 14 charges related to animal cruelty, the majority of which were dropped after her guilty plea.

The Crown and defence presented a joint sentencing submission, which included banning Irving for life in Alberta from owning animals, a $15,000 fine, and another $2,000 in surcharges. Because she spent the equivalent of six months in jail before her guilty plea, she was alleviated of her obligation to pay the fine.

Judge Derek Redman said Irving's behaviour was "absolutely abhorrent."

201 dogs seized

The charges stem from 2015, when 201 dogs were seized from Irving's property near Milk River, Alta. 

The animals were found dehydrated, starving and chained in the yard. Five more, including newborns, were found dead, including one that was found dead on top of a TV. Only one dog had access to food, and there was no access to clean drinking water.

Several dogs also had wounds, and one that had recently had its leg amputated was chained outside with the wound still open.

A psychiatric assessment suggested Irving likely wasn't suffering from mental illness when the dogs were seized.

Milk River RCMP/AARCS

Irving has a history of animal cruelty. 

In 2010, Irving had more than 80 dogs seized from her property near Foam Lake, Sask., which resulted in a 10-year ban in that province from owning more than two dogs at a time.

Irving had fled Alberta in 2016 after failing to appear for two court dates as instructed. Believed to be living in Jamaica for a time, she was arrested in Manitoba in January.

All 201 dogs that were seized found new homes. A 2016 documentary focused on the animals' rehabilitation, with some of the owners even reuniting the dogs two years after they were adopted.

Lara Fominoff/Lethbridge News Now