A Penticton woman set to go to trial on animal cruelty charges this week allegedly had a six-year history with animal welfare complaints before her three dogs were seized last January.
That’s according to court documents in the case of Joelle Mbamy, who was charged with one count each of causing unnecessary pain and suffering to an animal, failing to provide necessaries for an animal and causing an animal to continue to be in distress, in a case that has become high profile in the Okanagan.
Mbamy is innocent until proven guilty and her two-day trial before a judge alone on the charges is set to start on Thursday in Penticton’s provincial courts.
Though the matter didn’t become public until three dogs were seized from Mbamy’s home on Jan. 23, 2017, the B.C. SPCA was aware of animal welfare concerns at the property as far back as 2011, according to court documents obtained by the Western News.
It wasn’t until a neighbour sent pictures of the dogs’ conditions and allowed a B.C. SPCA officer to view those conditions from her property that the officer was able to acquire a search warrant, through an information to obtain (ITO) document.
The application is a statement by an officer in which it spells out the grounds on which a warrant should be granted by the court. However, witness statements given to an officer and included in the ITOs are not sworn and therefore not considered as reliable as court testimony.
In the ITO, B.C. SPCA special provincial Const. Kenneth McLennan wrote the initial calls to the property were for a spaniel named Poncho.
That dog was ultimately stolen, McLennan wrote, but Mbamy got another pair of springer spaniels, and the SPCA continued to get some of the same complaints as they had received regarding Poncho before they, too, were stolen.
They were ultimately replaced by two more springer spaniels and Rottweiler/Labrador retriever cross, according to the ITO, which was submitted on the same day of the search.
McLennan wrote that the B.C. SPCA had received a total of 21 calls, and each time he attended the gate was locked, barring any view of the animals and their living conditions.
However, McLennan said he was thwarted by a continuously locked gate, which led to a “continuous cycle” of complaints followed by “minimal and temporary” compliance from Mbamy in time for a pre-arranged meeting with the SPCA officer.
Then on Jan. 18, 2017, five days before the search, a neighbour called with concerns. Those concerns included risks of the dogs escaping through a fence and getting hit by cars, being stuck in the kennel often from 7 a.m. until midnight and little interaction with Mbamy: “maximum five minutes per day.”
“Dogs are fed one bowl of food in that time (between three dogs), the water bowl is often empty, dogs are enclosed in a wire kennel approximately four feet by eight feet and are not provided bedding and the feces/urine is rarely cleaned out.”
That neighbour allowed McLennan to view the conditions of the dogs from a stump on her property.
“SPC McLennan stood on the stump and viewed exactly the conditions that were reported by (the neighbour) 26 hours earlier,” the ITO said.
“He observed the dogs huddled together in the closed wire pen, the tarp had blown off the top of the pen and away from the sides, the dogs lay on a small piece of tarp, the floor of the kennel was covered in feces, a bowl with a few inches of dirty water was observed and no bedding was provided.”
McLennan wrote in the ITO that he attended the residence again on Jan. 20 and 21, and found the dogs to be in the same conditions.
A search warrant was granted on Jan. 23, and three dogs were seized from Mbamy’s property on the same day.
Mbamy’s trial is set to start on Thursday.