The owner of an exotic dog breeder organization is charged with human trafficking, police told Fox News.
According to the Toronto Police, Evonne Klassen owns the Pure Blue company, which the police said was “effectively a dog breeder network operating in the GTA” in recent years. She was charged with human trafficking, the Toronto Police said.
The police said the following, via Twitter on Wednesday: “Evonne Klassen, 40, owned an exotic dog breeder organization in the GTA. A 22-year-old man was stopped at a traffic stop in Eglinton-Lawrence yesterday (6.5.19) as suspected human trafficking. When police inspected his vehicle they found he was smuggling three dogs.”
The police said they believe one of the dogs was smuggled in the truck and the dog smugglers were “acting in concert” with Klassen.
The second man arrested in connection with the dog smuggling case was identified as 25-year-old Deevon Lummis. He is charged with human trafficking and carrying stolen firearms.
The Toronto Police alleged that the traffickers were “using the dogs as a tool of human trafficking.” The police statement said the charges “stem from the criminal investigation into this individual and two men in specific locations of the GTA allegedly involved in human trafficking and [the] importation of illegal dogs”.
The police said both men and the canine were located on Wednesday in Etobicoke “and referred to the SIU [Sovereign Attorney Office] due to their affiliations with Evonne Klassen.”
The SIU consists of sworn investigators in the Ontario Provincial Police; part of their mandate is to “investigate incidents of death, injury or neglect of persons within the personal care of another.” The SIU acts as the Ontario equivalent of the FBI in investigating police incidents involving deaths, serious injury or neglect of persons within the care of another.
The SIU is responsible for deciding whether or not to lay criminal charges, and has recently engaged outside counsel as it carries out its investigation into the death of Dan Sidhu, a Prairie farmer who was killed by a herd of cattle in Saskatchewan.
Police said “This investigation has been ongoing for some time, and we appreciate the public’s assistance in providing any information or tips they may have.”
The police said the investigation is ongoing and that the human trafficking and cargo theft charges stem from the same charges Klassen faces.
The SIU confirmed to Fox News Thursday that its criminal investigation is connected to the dog smuggling investigation, but said the criminal investigation is subject to a publication ban in order to protect the integrity of the criminal investigation and identify the victim.
The SIU did confirm, however, that it also investigates incident involving police officers who may have exercised their duties in a manner that may have crossed the line.
According to the police statement, the authorities came to know of the dogs early this year and conducted raids on three locations in central Toronto.
The police were given photos and video images of the dogs that would later be examined by local veterinarians. After examining the dogs, the police said the dogs were found to be infected with mange and fleas and were in poor condition.
The police statement said, “Klassen and the men conspired to smuggle the dogs into Canada and hold them against their will as bonded animals. They intended to use the dogs to enhance the illegal operations of their organization.”
The police statement said that the dogs were removed from the custody of Klassen and the men and were taken to the Toronto Dog Cat Clinic for medical treatment.
The SIU was not immediately available for comment.
The story from Fox News, as they were unable to confirm the details of what was alleged, can be read here.
Catherine E. Shoichet contributed to this report.