Vancouver Animal Rights Campaigns (VARK)

Activists Uniting For The Benefit of Animals

Canada Needs To Start Prosecuting Animal Abusers and Stop Prosecuting Animal Rescuers

Maggie Moore‎ Posted to Vancouver Animal Rights Campaigns
April 21

Canada Needs To Start Prosecuting Animal Abusers and Stop Prosecuting Animal Rescuers

“In Canada, you can inflict the most horrific cruelty on an animal without much worry of prosecution. But heaven help you if you rescue that suffering animal from their abuser.”

That has been the experience of animal rescuer Janet Olson, currently facing numerous charges in Surrey, B.C., relating to the rescue of several abused dogs. She has witnessed first-hand the stark difference between the way animal rescuers and animal abusers are treated by the Canadian justice system. “Although animal abuse is technically a crime under the criminal code of Canada,” Olson states, “in reality, even the worst cases of cruelty are treated as little more than misdemeanors.” In contrast, anyone rescuing a suffering animal from their abusive owner faces serious penalties for theft.

And Olson certainly is. Despite having no previous record or trouble with the law, the crown counselor prosecuting Olson’s case is requesting a jail term of 12 to 18 months for theft of property under $5000, if she pleads guilty and saves the court the cost of a lengthy trial. “If I insist on a trial, at a personal cost of over $100,000 and a cost to BC taxpayers of hundreds of thousands of dollars, the prosecutor will conceivably double that sentence recommendation.” says Olson. “These aren’t abused dogs to the crown. They are nothing more than property with the same rights as your television or toaster.”

In March 2014, Kevin Shiell, a Duncan man rescued an emaciated pitbull who was living in horrific conditions on a short chain in his own filth. Bear, who was known to the SPCA but had been left to was strangling on his entangled chain when Shiell found him. Shiell says if he had missed one more green light Bear, who was standing on the tips of the toes of his back feet to keep from being strangled, would have died. Yet Bear’s owner faces no charges for cruelty. But Shiell, Bear’s rescuer, is facing charges – for breaking and entering.

Olson points out that if these were children that had rescued from starvation, cruel confinement, beatings, hypothermia and near strangulation instead of dogs, it would be the parents who would be facing prosecution instead of her and Shiell. But Canadian animals have virtually no protection under the law from mistreatment. It is extremely rare for anyone in Canada convicted of even the most horrific acts of animal cruelty to receive anything harsher than a fine.

Olson cites the recent case in BC of Robert Fawcett, who was charged and convicted for the horrific slaughter of one hundred sled dogs, burying many of the alive. “The prosecutor did not even ask for a single day in jail,” says Olson. “Imagine – one hundred brutally murdered dogs and no jail time – as if they had no more rights than plants. He got a one year probation, which is shockingly, one of the most serious sentences an animal abuser in Canada will ever receive.”

But in the vast majority of animal cruelty cases, the charges are simply dropped. In 2009, NWT resident, Archie Beaulieu was charged with cruelty for starving and denying water to his thirty four sled dogs, who were all in such terrible physical state by the time they were finally rescued that they all had to be euthanized. The skulls of other dogs were found buried in the same mud and feces that the dying dogs were found standing in. Beaulieu had been starving dogs to death for years, leaving their bodies where they lay, then starting again with more dogs living on top the rotting bodies of the old ones. The charges were stayed by the crown. A NB man, Keith Barton, who was acquitted on five counts of killing his Pomeranians by fracturing their skulls with a hammer, the judge stating that the animals were his property and “he had the right to destroy them.”

The problem in obtaining convictions is often blamed on the requirement to prove “willful intent” to cause suffering. But even when that is clearly evident, the sentences are still extremely lenient. In Alberta in 2008 Daniel Haskett tied his dog’s legs together with duct tape, put a bag over her head, a rope around her neck and then dragged her behind his vehicle until her neck, back and pelvis were broken and one of her eyes had popped out of its socket. The crown prosecutor asked for only three months in jail. The judge sentenced Haskett to 30 days to be served on weekends. He wasn’t even denied the right to own more dogs. David Chan, of Pitt Meadows B.C. was found guilty of brutally torturing 11 Pekingese dogs. The dogs suffered burns, deep cuts, hemorrhages, ulcerated lesions and serious fractures and several died from their injuries. Chan received a one year probation and community service – no jail time, no criminal record and no fine. A Calgary man, Derick Colin Anderson, threw his girlfriend’s puppy off a balcony and when that didn’t kill him, kicked him to death, then sent the pictures of the dead puppy to his girlfriend. Anderson received no jail time, no criminal record and, remarkably, no ban on owning dogs.

Olson despairs, “It is hard to imagine what a person in Canada would have to do to an animal that would be horrific enough for our courts to inflict a serious punishment. If the brutal and deliberate slaughter of 100 sled dogs isn’t enough, if the deliberate starvation of dozens of dogs isn’t enough, if dragging a dog behind a truck until her body is broken and stripped of her flesh isn’t enough, if ritualistically torturing dogs to death isn’t enough – what would be enough?”

Compare this to Olson’s case for rescuing suffering dogs from their abusive owners. “I have already spent more time in jail prior to a conviction than Brian Whitlock, a BC man who poisoned, stabbed and beat his German shepherd named Captain with a baseball bat then tossed him barely alive in a dumpster, spent in jail after his conviction. If I had rescued Captain from Whitlock, I would most likely have spent more time in jail then the week that he did for brutally killing him.”

Olson maintains that there is no crime in the Criminal Code of Canada that goes as unpunished or is as weakly punished as animal cruelty. When it comes to animals, Canada is one of the most inhumane and unjust countries in the world. Not only does our justice system not protect animals from suffering, it prosecutes those who do.

If you agree that prosecuting Janet Olson for rescuing dogs suffering at the hands of their owners is not in the public interest and that you would rather see your tax dollars be spent on prosecuting animal abusers instead of animal rescuers please contact the Attorney General of BC, the Honourable Suzanne Anton by emailing her at You can also reach her with a pre-written letter at the campaign site
Please also sign the petition at
and for Kevin Shiell at
Please share these links far and wide.
Janet Olson can be reached at


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