August 30 2004: BC SPCA serves a Supreme Court Writ for Defamation (L042174) against AAS, some Directors, some posters, and President Judy Stone, spending thousands of dollars in a third attempt in three years to stop AAS from pointing out its errors instead of spending that money on animal welfare.
From a September 7, 2004 North Shore News article by Colin Wright:
In a turn of events rich with irony, the British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) filed a defamation suit Tuesday against the West Vancouver-based Animal Advocates Society (AAS).
The 60-page writ, filed Monday in B.C. Supreme Court, caps years of acrimony between the two organizations and primarily revolves around "voluminous" feature stories and messages posted on an Internet website (www.animaladvocates.com) operated by the AAS.
The SPCA's writ alleges "the AAS, has defined for itself a central role as a vociferous, public critic of the B.C. SPCA and its policies, programs and initiatives."
The writ alleges the AAS publishes written defamatory materials on its website "that are harshly critical of the B.C. SPCA and its officers, director and employers and volunteers."
In a statement released Thursday, Judy Stone, founder of the AAS, said the lawsuit "entirely mis-states what AAS is all about." Stone declined to comment on the specific allegations contained in the lawsuit but asserted that the organization will "defend the action vigorously" and is currently putting together a legal defense fund.
She added that her organization expects the B.C. SPCA to file an application for an interim injunction to have their website shut down.
Quoting from the AAS's website, the B.C. SPCA writ notes that the "mandate and official goal" of the AAS "is to help those animals that the official agencies will not help...our major goal is to reform the B.C. SPCA which we have proved is not protecting animals from cruelty."
The writ alleges that feature articles, reports and messages on the site's message board "are defamatory of the B.C. SPCA" and charges that the AAS "has made itself a clearinghouse for the ingathering and publication of such criticisms authored by others."
The "voluminous" materials on the website, said the writ, "are indexed, searchable and archived back to May 7, 2002."
The B.C. SPCA has made previous formal objections to some of the material on the website resulting in their removal. "However," states the writ, "the AAS has resumed its practice of displaying content on the website that is defamatory."
The writ states that the "imputations of cruelty" on the website cause readers to conclude the B.C. SPCA "engages in cruel and neglectful treatment of animals within its care and jurisdiction, promotes and condones the cruel and neglectful treatment of animals by others."
Similarly, the writ claims that such allegations have resulted in the B.C. SPCA being "seriously injured in its character, credit, reputation and has suffered damages, loss and expense."
Stone acknowledged in her statement that the organization is "committed to reforming the SPCA" and characterized the defamation suit as "an effort to crush AAS and muzzle legitimate public debate over very real problems that exist within the SPCA."
The statement says: "We are not out to destroy the SPCA at all, in fact we have worked for years with some success to make the SPCA more effective in achieving the goal of animal welfare."
The AAS statement claims to have "compiled a massive amount of information over the past 12 years from highly-credible sources that fully support its concerns about the SPCA."
Stone's statement also notes: "the SPCA is an organization that has lost its way" and said her organization "regrets the B.C. SPCA has decided to devote its resources on muzzling a well established organization of selfless volunteers dedicated to animal welfare in this province."
Along with general and specific damages for defamation, civil conspiracy and negligence, the lawsuit seeks an interim mandatory injunction that orders removal of the website from the Internet; and a final injunction that orders the purging of the defamatory material from the website before it goes back into operation.