Injustice for Animals, Injustice for an Animal Rescuer
One of the worst animal abusers in Canadian history, Robert Fawcett, was sentenced in November 2012, for the horrific slaughter of dozens of sled dogs. Not only did Fawcett not receive a jail sentence or a criminal record, he wasn't even banned from owning more dogs. For the mass slaughter and live burials, Fawcett received probation and a $1500 fine. 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.
Tragically, these are very typical sentences for even the worst animal abusers found guilty in Canada. They starkly reveal the Canadian justice system's chronic failure to treat animal cruelty as a serious crime. Only 1/4 of one percent of animal abusers are ever charged and of the few that are, less than one percent receive a jail sentence. There is no crime in the Criminal Code of Canada that goes as unpunished or is as weakly punished as animal cruelty.
Contrast that to the current criminal case in Surrey B.C. of Janet Olson, a 59 year old animal rights advocate, activist and dog rescuer who is facing charges for the theft of nine badly neglected and abused dogs. Olson rescued these abused dogs to put an end to their years of suffering at the hands of their owners. The right of animals not to suffer abusive or neglect is, at least in theory, protected by the Criminal Code of Canada which states “every one commits an offence who willfully causes or, being the owner, willfully permits to be caused unnecessary pain, suffering or injury to an animal or a bird. “ But in practice, animals are considered little more than property and, in the words of Surrey RCMP Cst Drew Grainger during an interview about Olson’s case with Ian Hanemansing of CBC News, are considered by the law to “be no different than VCR's". (This interview can be seen on UTube at http://youtu.be/M8jnY6Tt5Qs). Faced with a justice system that considers dogs nothing more than property and an SPCA who, either constrained by weak animal cruelty laws or a lack of will, only seizes dogs on the verge of death, rescuers like Olson know they are an abused animal’s only hope. Olson points out that if these were children she had rescued from starvation, cruel confinement, beatings and hypothermia instead of dogs, it would be the parents who would be facing prosecution instead of her.
Realizing the difficulty they would have gaining public support for the prosecution of a woman who rescued suffering dogs from abusive owners, the RCMP issued a press release following Olson’s arrest that falsely stated “she stole apparently well-cared for pets for profit”. This was a deliberate and calculated lie that contradicted both the evidence of abuse suffered by the dogs and the publicly available information that Olson donates tens of thousands of dollars every year to help pay for the rescue organization’s enormous vet bills. The intent and result of the slanderous press release was public outrage, resulting in dozens of threats of violence against Olson and hundreds of calls supporting the charges against her. The crown then used this “engineered” public outrage to determine that charges against Olson were in the public interest, a criteria that must be met in order for the crown to lay charges.
It is deeply disturbing to anyone who cares about the welfare of animals that Canada’s judicial system is not only extremely lenient in their prosecution and sentencing of animal abusers but has demonstrated an eagerness to not only prosecute, but persecute, an animal rescuer. Not only does our justice system not protect animals from suffering, it prosecutes those that do.
It will cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars to prosecute Olson for rescuing nine abused dogs. If you agree that prosecuting Janet Olson does not serve the public interest please sign the petition which will be sent to the Office of the Assistant Deputy Attorney General Joyce Dewitt-Van Oosten.
You can also make your voice heard by contacting the office of the ADAG directly by phone, fax or mail as indicated below:
Office of ADAG: phone 250-387-3840 fax 250-387-0090
Mailing Address: ADAG, PO Box 9276, Stn Prov Govt, Victoria, B.C. V8W 9J7