01/29/2015 01:12 EST | Updated 03/31/2015 05:59 EDT

April Dawn Irving, accused Alberta dog hoarder, has history of animal neglect

A woman accused by the SPCA of hoarding 201 dogs on an acreage near Milk River, Alta., has a past conviction for animal neglect in Saskatchewan, a court document shows.

April Dawn Irving, 55, who voluntarily surrendered 60 dogs in December and had another 141 seized by the Alberta Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals earlier this month, has filed a lawsuit against the animal protection agency, CBC has learned.

The voluntary surrender meant the SPCA could move immediately to have those 60 dogs adopted.

After failing to convince Irving to change the conditions her remaining dogs were living in, the SPCA said it returned to the property on Jan. 13 to remove the rest of Irving's dogs.

The removal of the remaining 141 dogs took six hours and required a court-ordered search warrant to access the property, according to the SPCA.

A local animal shelter, called the Alberta Animal Rescue Crews Society, said the animals were living in horrendous conditions, and said it was one of the worst cases of animal neglect the agency has ever seen.

​The SPCA said the two seizures were the largest removal of dogs in Alberta's history.

In 2013, Irving was found guilty of one charge under Saskatchewan's Animal Protection Act, after she was accused of operating a puppy mill.

The judge in the case dismissed two criminal charges against Irving, finding that she was not wilfully negligent in the care of her dogs.

Court documents also reveal that Irving was accused of mistreating animals in 2007.

She faced four charges under Alberta's Animal Protection Act related to dogs she kept in Fort McMurray, Alta.

The charges included causing or permitting an animal to be in distress, obstruction of justice and possession of stolen property, related to a dog.

All charges were withdrawn on Feb. 13, 2008, but a number of dogs were seized from Irving on three separate occasions in 2007.


To hear to this morning's Calgary Eyeopener interview with the Alberta SPCA, click the Listen button.