Woman pleads for return of pets

Farm animals removed in separate incident

Christopher Gooding cgooding@citizenrecord.ca
Published on June 25, 2014
Heidi Zappler’s world is slowly being taken away from her, she says. Her farm animals and pet dogs have been taken away by authorities while she deals with depression.
Christopher Gooding photo

UPDATED: Thursday, June, 2014

MACCAN – Heidi wants her dogs back.

It hasn’t been an easy experience for Heidi Zappler, who moved to the area after a thirty-year career teaching career in Florida and, recently, she’s undergone some depression. That change in mood, she says, has not only taken away her ability to look at the brighter side of life, it’s taken away her support team, too.

Zappler was house hunting earlier this month when someone concerned for her wellbeing called RCMP and during the ensuing checkup with a doctor her pets – specifically five dogs – were taken away from her. One now faces euthanasia and the fate of the remaining four is unknown.

“I was visiting my friend for maybe 15 minutes when the RCMP arrived,” Zappler said. “I was at the hospital for three-hours, most of that was the wait time, and the doctor said I was fine. That took maybe fifteen minutes… then I was told I couldn’t have my dogs back.”

Zappler’s dogs were in her travel trailer when RCMP found her and animal control was called to tend to the animals, who delivered them to the Lillian Albon Animal Shelter. It was decided the pets would not be retuned to Zappler, but it’s a decision that is not made by the shelter.

“All we do is take care of the animals until a decision is made,” LA Animal Shelter president Marilyn Williams explained. “Once it’s officially decided, we can rehome, but we have to hear from the police or the SPCA first.”

A consultation process took place to decide Zappler would not receive her pets back. A spokesperson with the SPCA says if RCMP were called, then they would have a case file on the matter, not the SPCA. Williams says when any consultation takes place, it’s between the investigating organization, the body empowered with enforcing the province’s Animal Protection Act, like a municipal animal bylaw control officer or RCMP, and sometimes the shelter.

Zappler says she’s reached out to all the parties to appeal the decision but no one has stepped forward to help her. Instead, she says, each has passed her on to the other. But all have been firm the dogs will not be released into her care.

“I don’t know what it is. Everyone is shoving the issue off on someone else,” Zappler said. “I don’t want to rehome my pets. I want them back.”

The Nova Scotia Dept. of Agriculture doesn’t deal with dogs, but they do deal with farm animals. And it just so happens they took Zappler’s farms animals away from her before the incidents with the dogs.


Farm animals seized

Dr. Laura Ross, an animal care veterinarian with the Dept. of Agriculture and acting provincial inspector for farm animal welfare, says 22 animals were taken from a Maccan-based farm on June 3, after an effort was made to get the owner to improve conditions.

“When we find animals in distress we work with the owners to relieve the situation. If they’re not able to make an effort, we seize the animals,” Ross said.  

Sheep, goats, a llama and chickens were sized from the Maccan farm after an investigation determined insufficient water, food and shelter was being provided, Ross said.

“All have since recovered. A few were in poor condition,” Ross said. “All have been rehomed to more experienced farmers and doing quite well.”

Ross said the matter is still being investigated, but so far no related charges have been laid.

Zappler admits her farm animals were taken away from her, after allegations of neglect arose and said the accusations are outright false. A felter familiar at farmer’s markets in the area, Zappler raised Alpacas and Llamas to turn their wool in to craft creations. While living in Florida, she ran the Zappler Educational and Animal Ranch in Polk City, a small community southwest of Orlando. 

According to Zappler, the accusation was her farm animals were without water. The allegations came on the heels of Zappler’s vehicle being vandalized, she says, and started the series of events that lead to the first complaint about the wellbeing for her dogs.

“Less than a month ago I was living in a duplex in Joggins and the neighbours called the SPCA saying I left the pets unattended,” Zappler said. “I had my tires slashed, so I had started parking my car away from my apartment, that’s why they thought I wasn’t home.”

An investigation at that time determined Zappler was home with her dogs, she said, and that nothing was wrong.

Except one of the dogs bit the RCMP officer, putting a hole in his foot wear, Zappler said. And the dog had bit a girl when she startled the dog. And, later, someone at the animal shelter, too, she said.   

Inevitably, that dog was facing euthanasia, Zappler alleged in a second interview, after the dogs were brought into the shelter’s care. An unconfirmed source, however, said the dog has not been euthanized. The remaining four, Zappler says, have medical conditions ranging from thyroid issues to special diets, deafness and old age. She’s had opportunity to visit her dogs, but has since been told she’s won’t be allowed to visit the shelter anymore.

“When dealing with depression, this is horrible,” Zappler said.

Zappler is circulating a petition to have the dogs released back into her care. She says she’s travelled from Sackville, N.B. to Tatamagouche, N.S. collecting upwards of 200 signatures in the process.

Cumberlandnewnow.com has contacted Cumberland RCMP for comment on the removal of Zappler’s dogs.