2 Fort Qu'Appelle men convicted of causing distress to animals in dog hoarding case

At one point in the investigation, 48 dogs were counted at the residence of defendants Morgan Desjarlais and Gary Gillingwater in Fort Qu'Appelle.  (RCMP - image credit)
At one point in the investigation, 48 dogs were counted at the residence of defendants Morgan Desjarlais and Gary Gillingwater in Fort Qu'Appelle. (RCMP - image credit)

Two men living in a house in Fort Qu'Appelle have been found guilty of causing or permitting dogs in their care to be in distress, in violation of the Animal Protection Act 2018.

This animal hoarding case developed in 2021. At one point in the investigation 48 dogs were counted at the home of defendants Morgan Desjarlais and Gary Gillingwater, according to the Crown.

Judge Kevin A. Lang passed down the decision in Fort Qu'Appelle on Monday.

"I wish I could say it's unique," Don Ferguson, executive director of Animal Protection Services of Saskatchewan, told CBC News.

"But we have seen an increase in the number of residences where we found multiple animals that may, depending on your definition of animal hoarding, fit into that category."

In 2022, protection services had 23 files on cat hoarding and 19 files on dog hoarding in Saskatchewan.

Protection officer Nicole Carrier was the first to investigate the Fort Q'Appelle case after receiving a complaint of concerns for the welfare of dogs at Desjarlais and Gillingwater's residence, according to court documents. Carrier inspected the home on Oct. 21, Nov. 23 and Dec. 15, 2021.

After her Oct. 21 inspection, Carrier described the residence as having unsanitary living conditions, feces and urine all over the flooring and being very cluttered, with garbage piled in all of the rooms. She also noticed a strong smell of ammonia that she attributed to the presence of feces and urine on the floors and even on the walls.

At this time, she counted 40 dogs at the residence. Carrier witnessed dogs urinating and defecating on the floor, and said there was no ventilation in the home to deal with the smell. She issued a notice outlining the concerns to the two men so that they could deal with the issues.

During her Nov. 23 visit, Carrier counted 48 dogs. Sixteen of them had health concerns as well as numerous grooming problems such as matted coats, over-grown nails and significant dental issues, including diseased and missing teeth. Carrier said the home had not changed since her last visit.

An air quality measurement found ammonia at 10 parts per million on both the main floor and basement. Carrier said no ammonia should be detected for the residence to be a healthy living environment.

Meanwhile, one dead dog and one dead puppy were found outside the Fort Qu'Appelle home, and a third dog had to be euthanized by a veterinarian because of significant health issues.

Finally, on Dec. 15, 2021, Carrier visited the home again and noticed that no corrective actions had been made. Both defendants voluntarily surrendered 13 dogs to Animal Protection Services and officers seized another 32 dogs.

Animal Protection Services of Saskatchewan/Facebook
Animal Protection Services of Saskatchewan/Facebook

Signs of animal hoarding

Ferguson said he is pleased with the judges decision in the Desjarlais and Gillingwater case.

He said an animal hoarder is defined as someone who has accumulated a lot of animals and then fails to provide the minimal standards of nutrition, sanitation and veterinary care.

"They fail to act on the deteriorating condition of the animals and their environment. And finally, they are unaware of the negative effects of the collection of animals on their own health and wellbeing and that of other family members," Ferguson said.

He said that within the animal protection community, there is an understanding that animal hoarding is considered a special manifestation of compulsive hoarding.

"There's been more and more research done," Ferguson said. "We know that engaging mental health agencies, social services and other public authorities to address these issues is key to actually addressing them."

He said that people can usually tell when animal hoarding is taking place in a home because of an increased level of smell, particularly ammonia from the accumulation of urine and feces. The owner typically smells as well.

Also, there is usually an increase of clutter both inside and outside the residence.

In cat hoarding cases, cats can usually be seen wandering around and near the property, but dog owners tend to keep the animals indoors.

Sentencing for both Desjarlais and Gillingwater is set for Monday at 10 a.m. CST at Saskatchewan Provincial Court in Fort Qu'Appelle.