A Penticton pharmacist has pleaded guilty to an animal cruelty charge, averting a trial at the last minute.
Joelle Mbamy, 57, was charged with three counts relating to animal welfare charges, including cause unnecessary pain or suffering to an animal, failing to provide necessaries to an animal and causing an animal to continue to be in distress (the charge she pleaded guilty to).
Mbamy was set for a trial to start Thursday morning, but in court the local pharmacist instead entered a guilty plea, and was ultimately sentenced to a $1,000 fine and a 10-year prohibition against owning animals.
In the sentencing hearing, Crown lawyer Alex Janse effectively went over the same details the Western News learned through court documents this week. That included a six-year history of complaints to the B.C. SPCA, dating back to 2011, before her three dogs were seized in January 2017.
Mbamy’s ownership of those three dogs followed the theft of two dogs from her property, who in turn, had replaced another dog that was stolen from the property after initial complaints were filed in 2011.
Janse also noted some of the conditions the dogs were in upon their seizure by the SPCA, particularly the small kennel with feces covering the floor and an empty food bowl.
A veterinarian looked over the animals, and a Rottweiler/Labrador retriever cross was rated at a two out of nine body score, with five considered ideal.
“Four would be thin, two is very thin,” Janse said. “The two spaniels were both rated as a one out of nine body condition score, which is considered emaciated. He provided the opinion to the SPCA that the dogs were suffering from neglect.”
The Rottweiler and a spaniel were sent to Kelowna SPCA for care, while the other spaniel remained at the local clinic to get fluids and testing to determine whether it was malnutrition or disease that caused a lack of bodyweight.
“It was noted that she gained almost two kilograms in four days while under veterinarian care,” Janse said, adding the dog was then released to the SPCA.
Defence and Crown entered a joint submission for a $1,000 fine, on top of a $5,037.87 fine she already paid to the SPCA. but differed in opinions on the length of a prohibition of owning animals. Crown sought a 10-year ban, while defence suggested a five-year prohibition.
Janse said it did not appear to be a case of malice, but rather of negligence, as Mbamy was too busy with work.
Defence lawyer Julian van der Walle pointed to the success of the family since Mbamy immigrated from France about 20 years ago, calling her an “immigrant who overcame all the odds.”
Van der Walle said Mbamy’s husband died six years ago of liver failure, and has been raising her daughter as a single mother since. Three years ago, Mbamy bought the Sunrise Pharmacy in Penticton.
“My client’s a tremendous asset to the community. She does a group fitness instruction. She’s a personal trainer. Her pharmacy received, in 2014, a Pfizer (Bowl of) Gygeia Award,” van der Walle said.
He added that Mbamy does fundraisers for breakfast programs at schools and provides services for the homeless.
Judge Gregory Koturbash was particularly concerned about the lengthy period of involvement with the SPCA.
“How we treat animals that are in our care and at our mercy is also a very good barometer of a person’s character, and you didn’t do very well on that test,” he said.
Koturbash also appreciated van der Walle’s assertion that the dogs were in good shape a month prior to the SPCA seizure, but cast doubt on her ability to care for animals anytime soon.
“I don’t foresee life getting much easier for you in the sense of business, in the sense of physical abilities to look after the animals. And it’s particularly concerning for me that the SPCA was involved with you for so long. Owning an animal is not a right in our country. It is a privilege,” he said.
“You have foregone that privilege for at least 10 years.”