Gail Benoit, 30 &

Dana Bailey, 36

1 adult & 2 emaciated pups found in the cold Marshalltown, Nova Scotia, Canada November 23, 2000

Gail Benoit, 38 &

Dana Bailey, 40

10 pups seized Roxville, Nova Scotia, Canada October 24, 2007
Gail Benoit, 40 & Dana Bailey, 42 4 ill pups die Digby, Nova Scotia, Canada January 5, 2009

Case # 1:  Gail Benoit and Dana Bailey of Marshalltown, near Digby, have been charged under the provincial Animal Cruelty Act when three dogs were removed from their backyard on Nov 23. The three dogs were hypothermic and emaciated.

Dr Neil Pothier was the veterinarian who accompanied SPCA investigator Bill Hilden to the home to examine the three dogs. The first dog he examined was an adult female pit bull type of dog. She had lost most of her muscle mass, was emaciated and on the verge of starving.

There was not any food and the water in a bucket had frozen solid. The dog's tether was wrapped around a bush or tree so the dog cold not reach the doghouse for shelter.

The dog's temperature was 37.4 degrees. Normal range is 38.5 to 39.5. "Any below that (38.5) is hypothermic." The dog was shivering, had pale mucous membranes which meant blood circulation has been impaired. In the vet's opinion, the adult dog might have lasted another day or two.

The dog had fleas but no worms. Blood work indicated the dog was normal without any major organ diseases. The dog was very hungry. "It was ravenous. It dove into the food."

The adult dog weighed 37.2 pounds, it should have weighted about 50 pounds. In a foster home the dog now weighs about 50 pounds.

The pups were in a small enclosure with a doghouse. The smaller of the two puppies was quiet, had fleas and biting lice. It was also hypothermic, shivering and had a distended abdomen, appeared it might have worms.

The second pup seemed stronger but also had worms. When the two pups were wormed at the animal hospital, their cages began to fill up rapidly with worms, hundreds of which were expelled.

The two women had a bright, colored sign by their home on Highway 101 advertising pups for sale. Benoit and Bailey were told not to sell dogs while this matter is before the court.

Update 5/16/01:  A Digby County veterinarian who urged the SPCA to seize three dogs from a backyard last November said in court that an adult female dog and at least one of two pups were hypothermic and emaciated.

At the couple's trial, Dr. Neil Pothier, the veterinarian who accompanied SPCA investigator Bill Hilden to the home on the cold November day, said the first dog he examined was an adult female pit bull-type of dog. She had lost most of her muscle mass, was emaciated and likely on the verge of starving, said Dr. Pothier, a veterinarian for 16
years. No food could be seen and water in a bucket had frozen solid, he said.

The dog's tether was wrapped around a bush or a tree so it could not reach a doghouse, court was told. The dog's temperature was 37.4 degrees. A normal range is 38.5 to 39.5."Anything below that (38.5) is hypothermic," he said. The dog was shivering, and pale mucous membranes indicated its blood circulation had been compromised, Dr. Pothier said. The dog had fleas but no worms. Blood work and a biochemistry profile all indicated the dog was normal and had no major organ diseases.  But the dog was hungry.  "It was ravenous. It dove into the food," Dr. Pothier said.

At Bayview Animal Hospital, where the animals were taken, the adult dog weighed in at 37.2 pounds, Dr. Pothier told the court. The dog should have been in the 50-pound range, he said.

On cross-examination, Dr. Pothier said the dog now weighs close to 55 pounds in a foster home.

At the Marshalltown property, Dr. Pothier next checked the pups. They were in a small enclosure with a doghouse. The smaller of the two pups was quiet and had fleas and biting lice. It was also hypothermic, shivering and had a distended abdomen, often associated with intestinal worms, the vet said. The second pup seemed to be stronger but also had worms.

After the pups were dewormed at the animal hospital, their cages began to fill up rapidly with worms, hundreds of which were expelled, Dr. Pothier said. The adult dog was the most hypothermic of the three and might have lasted only another day or two if not attended to, he said.  "I told (Mr. Hilden) in my professional opinion we should take all the dogs," he said.

Mr. Hilden, an SPCA special constable, testified that he knocked repeatedly on the door of the home while two RCMP officers looked on. No one came to the door.  Mr. Hilden paused and wiped tears away as he looked at photos of the dogs that an RCMP officer took that day at the animal hospital.

While court was in session, notices reading Stop Puppy Mills were placed under the windshield wipers of about 30 vehicles in the parking lot.

Defence lawyer Michael Power asked Judge Robert Prince to order a publication ban until the trial has ended because of the emotionally charged nature of the proceedings.  Judge Prince denied the request, stating the media must be informed of such an application in time to respond.  Mr. Power said he will apply on June 21, when the trial resumes, and asked for an interim publication ban in the meantime. That request was also denied.

Update 10/27/01:  Benoit & Bailey were convicted of failing to provide adequate food, water and medical care for their dogs.

Update 1/25/02:  The owner of a notorious puppy mill stormed out of court here Thursday, banging doors and yelling obscenities after she was fined for animal cruelty. Gail Benoit, 32, of Marshalltown, Digby County, then stood on the courthouse steps smoking cigarettes and yelling insults and obscenities at people as they left the building.

Ms. Benoit and her common-law spouse, Dana Bailey, 38, both convicted after an earlier trial, were fined a total of $1,120 and banned from owning animals for five years. They were also ordered to reimburse the local branch of the SPCA $1,261 for veterinary bills and housing for the animals.

Judge Robert Prince said he hoped the sentence sends a strong message that "there are consequences for this type of action.""When we take control of animals, when we bring that animal home, we're responsible for its condition," said the judge. "Animals don't ask to come home with us, we ask them."

Judge Prince didn't accept defence lawyer Michael Power's argument that the poor condition of three dogs - an adult and two puppies - was temporary because the owners were away for the day. Testimony revealed the dogs were emaciated, flea-ridden and had no food or water. The adult dog and one of the puppies were suffering from hypothermia, Dr. Neil Pothier told the court.

"I disagree that there was a transient period of neglect that would have ended when the accused returned home," the judge said. "It was clear that this was a condition that was chronic and acute."

Crown attorney Lloyd Lombard wanted a $3,000 fine and the couple banned for life from owning animals.  "The defendants did not have animals because they loved them. They had them purely for profit," said Mr. Lombard. Mavis Haycock, vice-president of the Nova Scotia SPCA, was disappointed there was no lifetime ban. "It was a very serious case of neglect," she said outside court.  "The money part of it is not really an issue. It's the ban on owning animals that's really important to us."

Update 10/6/02:  A Nova Scotia Supreme Court judge upheld an appeal by Gail Benoit, age 32.  Benoit & her common-law spouse, Dana Bailey, 38 will have a new trial.

Update 9/6/03:  A judge has dismissed animal cruelty charges against a Digby County couple.   Gail Benoit, 33, and her common-law spouse Dana Bailey, 39, appeared in provincial court for the continuation of a new trial ordered after their successful appeal of January 2002 convictions. But Judge John Nichols determined the Marshalltown couple's rights had been violated so he excluded all of the Crown's evidence.

Judge Nichols did not provide a reason in court for excluding the Crown evidence but will provide written reasons soon.  The violation involved an SPCA officer, a local veterinarian and RCMP going onto the couple's property and seizing three dogs when the couple were not at home, Crown attorney Lloyd Lombard said.

Following their convictions in January 2002, the couple were fined $1,120 and banned from owning animals for five years. They had been charged under the provincial Animal Cruelty Prevention Act The dog owners were also ordered to pay the local branch of the SPCA $1,261 for veterinary bills and housing for the animals.  The couple had paid neither the fine nor the SPCA bill, said their lawyer, Michael Power. All the penalties are now void, Mr. Power said. 

The couple appealed the verdict to Nova Scotia Supreme Court, and last October, that court ordered a new trial.
The trial began this year with the Crown proceeding on charges involving the adult dog only and admitting evidence during a voir dire.

Case #2 10/24/07:  Provincial SPCA investigators seized puppies from a property in Roxville, near Digby.

Every RCMP officer available in the town also went to the blue bungalow on Highway 217, where things turned ugly in a hurry.

  (Photo courtesy of CTV)  Gail Benoit was home when the officers arrived and was arrested. She was screaming obscenities and rocking violently in the back seat of a police car when she was taken away.

Cpl. Trish McQuarrie later took photos of a large gob of phlegm on the plastic shield between the front and back seats where Ms. Benoit allegedly spat.

"All we’re there for is to keep the peace . . . and to ensure that the SPCA officers are able to do their job," Cpl. McQuarrie said.

Eight puppies were seized from the home and garage after two were taken away the day before.

  (Photo courtesy of CTV)  Ms. Benoit’s husband, Dana Bailey, was not home during the raid but he arrived at the Digby RCMP detachment shortly after 5:30 p.m. and began shouting at officers.  What were you doing at my house again today?" he said, continuing to shout and curse.  "You’d better let her out," he said, referring to his wife. "She’s had enough. Do you hear me? She’s had enough."  He then jumped into his minivan and drove off.

A sign on the rural home’s mailbox says Puppies Us. A middle word or letter appears to be missing.

Judith Gass, past-president of the Nova Scotia SPCA, said investigators at the property on found more pups thought to be infested with parasites, so they returned on the next day.  Some of the pups had bulging abdomens and likely carried large loads of worms, Ms. Gass said.  She said charges under the provincial Animal Cruelty Prevention Act and the Criminal Code are pending against one or more occupants of the home.

The SPCA was acting on complaints, Ms. Gass said, and the investigation will continue.

Update 12/11/07:  Court documents allege Gail Ruth Benoit, 38, assaulted SPCA special constable Nancy Noel on Oct. 24.

Ms. Benoit and her common-law husband, Dana Bailey, were in court to get their case adjourned until February so their lawyer can have more time to examine the Crown’s evidence. The couple also face a number of animal cruelty charges stemming from raids on their Roxville home in October, when SPCA staff armed with a search warrant seized a total of 10 puppies over two days.

SPCA officials confirmed in October that tests done on the animals revealed they had an intestinal virus that could be linked to unsanitary living conditions.

RCMP officers ended up arresting Ms. Benoit on the second day of the seizures, Oct. 26, and removed her from her bungalow. They placed her in the back of a police car where she rocked back and forth and shouted obscenities while the puppies were collected. Mr. Bailey was not home.

After court, the couple left Digby provincial court by a side door.  Ms. Benoit walked to her mini-van behind her husband, making occasional rude gestures.  "The truth will be known in the end," she said before jumping into the van.

Several people have contacted the Nova Scotia SPCA to say they’ve purchased puppies from Ms. Benoit, and some complaints have been lodged, said SPCA special constable Sean Kelly, who was in courtroom.

Update 2/19/08:  The lawyer for a Digby couple accused of selling sick, dirty puppies says he wants all the charges against his clients to go away.

Gail Benoit and Dana Bailey face animal cruelty charges after the SPCA seized 10 pups over two days from the couple’s Digby-area home last fall.

The SPCA said at the time it acted on public complaints.

In Digby provincial court, defence lawyer Michael Power told the judge he would file a motion to stay all proceedings against his clients as an abuse of process by the SPCA.

In addition to animal cruelty charges, she’s charged under the Criminal Code with assaulting an SPCA officer, obstruction and damaging a police car.

Mr. Bailey, who was not home when officers arrived, is charged with animal cruelty.

"I think the main reason that they find themselves before the courts is, the SPCA has taken it upon themselves to regulate the private sale of dogs," Mr. Power said outside the courtroom.  "They don’t like the fact that (Ms. Benoit and Mr. Bailey) have been selling dogs and so as a result of that, they’ve taken it upon themselves to take on the regulation of that particular activity, which I’m not sure falls within their jurisdiction," he said.  "I think it’s outside the jurisdiction of the act to regulate the private sale of animals."  Mr. Power said he’ll attempt to have the criminal charges against Ms. Benoit stayed as well.  "They flow from the activities of the enforcement officers on that day, so if the charges under the Animal Cruelty (Prevention) Act fail, then the other charges should fail as well," he said.

Mr. Power did not enter pleas to any of the charges but said it is his intention to plead not guilty to all counts on behalf of his clients.

"The SPCA’s main mandate is the investigation and alleviation of cruelty to animals," SPCA president Pamela Keddy said.  "It’s not the sale of puppies that we’re interested in. It’s how (people) are caring for . . . animals," she said.

In the case of Ms. Benoit and Mr. Bailey, the SPCA had a search warrant.  "Our warrants aren’t to inspect; our warrants are to seize," said Ms. Keddy.  "In order to seize, there had to be enough evidence that (the court) would award us the warrant," she said.

The SPCA does not investigate anonymous complaints, said Ms. Keddy. But when people call them with concerns about the health and safety of animals, they investigate, she said.

The matter returns to court June 26 and 27 in Digby for a hearing on the preliminary motion to stay the charges.

Update 11/6/08:  Digby County puppy brokers Gail Benoit and Dana Bailey appeared in court Nov. 3 charged with animal cruelty. The pair have entered not guilty pleas to the charge laid following seizure of 10 puppies from the couple’s Roxville property in October, 2007.

Judge Jean Louis Batiot said a verdict would be rendered Jan. 29 following written summaries from prosecution and defense.

In an interview Nov. 3 outside the courtroom, SPCA special constable Nancy Noel and chief provincial investigator Roger Joyce said their warrant to seize two puppies from Benoit and Bailey was in response to complaints filed with the SPCA.

The two officials testified in court Oct. 24 that a search of a darkened garage on the couple’s property uncovered a number of puppies. The SPCA officers seized two puppies that day, returning two days later to seize a further eight.

In court Nov. 3, defense lawyer Mike Powers called witnesses Pat Harlow-Robar and Donna Nugent.

Harlow-Robar, who described herself as a social acquaintance of Gail Benoit, said she used Benoit and Bailey’s ‘Puppies ‘R’ Us’ company to sell her Valley bulldog pups.

She testified that the puppies she turned over to Benoit and Bailey for sale in October, 2007, were healthy, but had not been de-wormed. “All pups are born with worms,” she said.

Harlow-Robar said she had used Benoit and Bailey’s services in the past and she anticipated receiving $200 per dog from them.

Donna Nugent of Pictou County, who was subpoenaed by the defense, testified that she placed an ad on a Halifax website in October. 2007. Her English bulldog had died and she wanted a puppy of the same breed.

Nugent said she received a response from Gail Benoit who said she had purebred English bulldog pups for sale for $800.

Nugent testified she was not comfortable with Benoit’s insistence that they meet in a parking lot. She expected to be able to go to the home or kennel where the pup was born. She said after her initial conversation with Benoit, she continued to receive calls from the puppy broker, including one at 10 p.m. on a Sunday.

Nugent said advertising on the Halifax website also resulted in emails from people detailing their experiences with Benoit. Nugent read that people had purchased sick and dying puppies from Benoit over the years. She was also told that Benoit represented mixed breed puppies as purebreds.

In her testimony, Nugent said she had previously been in conversation with Global News, which planned a feature on puppy mills. She said she and a friend, who wore a concealed microphone, met Benoit in a parking lot in Elmsdale. Global News was filming.

Nugent said the two puppies that Benoit brought to the parking lot that day were not purebred and were unhealthy.  “If I could have scooped them up and taken them to the vet, I would have,” said Nugent.  She and Taylor both filed complaints with the SPCA.

Nugent said she was opposed to puppymills and has her own group on the social website Facebook devoted to shutting down puppy mills.

Update 1/29/09:  Digby County puppy brokers Gail Benoit and Dana Bailey were found guilty, today, Jan. 29, of animal cruelty stemming from the October 2007 seizure of 10 puppies from their Roxville property.

Gail Benoit was also found guilty of assaulting SPCA special constable Nancy Noel at the time of the seizure.

Dangerous road conditions prevented Benoit and Bailey’s lawyer, Michael Power, from attending court and Judge Jean Louis Batiot advised that sentencing will take place March 26.

The 2007 seizure of 10 sick and malnourished puppies by Nova Scotia SPCA chief investigator Roger Joyce and special constable Nancy Noel followed complaints filed with the SPCA.

Both Noel and Joyce were present for Judge Batiot’s verdict and say they hope Benoit and Bailey will be prohibited from owning animals.

Joyce says he makes frequent checks on people who are prohibited from owning animals.

Gail Benoit addressed Judge Batiot after he read the verdict. “This has got to stop,” she said. “My family is terrified and people have threatened to burn my house down.”

“The SPCA is corrupt,” she said, as she left the courtroom.

Case #3:  1/5/09:  New charges of animal cruelty were laid today against Gail Benoit and Dana Bailey, puppy brokers operating out of the Digby area.

Benoit and Bailey face animal cruelty charges —relating to their 2008 sale of puppies infected with the deadly parvovirus.

Benoit and Bailey garnered attention in August when the owners of sick puppies purchased from the couple came forward with their stories.

Four of those puppies died from the fatal parvo virus within hours or days of being purchased by their new owners. Benoit and Bailey have been charged with four counts under provincial animal cruelty legislation and four counts under the federal criminal code.

Reference:

Nova Scotia News

The Chronicle Herald

Nova News Now

The Halifax Herald