SURREY - A woman facing 36 dog-theft related charges urged Surrey city council to get strict on dog cruelty Monday night.
Janet Olson, 58, and two other women urged city council to enact a bylaw banning the chaining, tethering and cruel confining of dogs.
Olson is the founder and director of A Better Life Dog Rescue, and is facing charges in connection with a series of alleged dog thefts that have taken place across the Lower Mainland since 2006. Five other women have also been charged.
At Monday's council meeting, Olson showed a video of dogs that were chained, painting a picture of dogs unable to run free and stuck outside in extreme weather.
"This is what life is like day after day, year after year, for many resident dogs," she said.
Olson said chained dogs become aggressive, and are more prone to biting. She also said many strangle to death in their attempts to break free.
She provided the example of Judas, a dog in Burnaby. "Despite being repeated reports to the SPCA, Judas remained on a chain for 10 torturous years."
In a plea to have council enact an anti-chaining bylaw, Olson said, "As long as this remains legal, how can we consider ourselves humane people?"
She added these animals are "totally dependent on us and our humanity - or lack thereof."
Other cities that have enacted similar bylaws include New Westminster and Delta.
Mayor Dianne Watts said she supports creating a bylaw "150 per cent."
She said once staff had drafted a bylaw, she wants to engage the three women to ensure the bylaw is written thoroughly.
Coun. Mary Martin echoed that support.
"This is heartbreaking. I have never lived with out dogs," Martin said.
She asked Olson how many chained dogs she thinks Surrey has. Olson guessed there were probably a few hundred dogs being chained in Surrey, but noted that has gone down in the last few years as awareness about chaining cruelty has spread.
Coun. Barbara Steele requested an emergency resolution be sent to the Lower Mainland Local Government Associations (LMLGA), which is having its AGM in May. Steele said she hoped the resolution would then be forwarded to the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM), to spread the word to other cities.
Olson faces charges ranging from possessing a break-in instrument to fraud and theft. The crimes are alleged to have taken place in several cities, including Surrey, Langley, Vancouver, White Rock and Delta.
Police allege that after receiving tips about dogs left outside, Olson and other members of A Better Life Dog Rescue employed a number of methods to take the dogs, including cutting fences and leashes, luring dogs with food and breaking locks.
Investigators believe Olson may be responsible for as many as 47 alleged thefts.
According to ABLDR's website, the organization doesn't have a shelter but collects donations through a post office box in White Rock to help abused and neglected dogs. The outfit has been running for three years and in that time claims to have rescued and re-homed more than 1,000 dogs to date.
But Surrey RCMP Cpl. Grainger said in December that A Better Life Dog Rescue is not an accredited rescue organization or affiliated with any such groups.
Grainger said the Surrey RCMP property crime unit launched an investigation after learning about a number of pet thefts in the Lower Mainland. Olson and her organization were subjects of interest at the onset, he added.
"This investigation quickly revealed Olson and Reid were operating their charitable not-for-profit organization beyond the scope of its mandate and allegedly unlawfully acting beyond their good will intentions," Grainger said.
Olson has said publicly on a number of occasions that she invests large sums of her own money to rescue animals that are abandoned, neglected or abused. She believes tethering animals or leaving them outside alone for long periods of time is cruel.
She denies selling the organization's rescue dogs for profit.
Olson is scheduled to go to trial on her breach charges on May 2.
-With files from Tom Zytaruk and the Vancouver Sun