The Hope Standard
February 2, 2006
Makeshift cat shelter
raided by SPCA
You would think that
animals would cower in the corner at the sight of any owner facing a
possible charge of cruelty to animals. But just the opposite is true
it seems in the case of a local woman who was recently raided by the
SPCA, who were backed up by police armed with a search warrant,
Weeks later the very sight of Gwen Wilson's kind,
tired face triggers a small stampede towards her as even the goats
line up at her gate to give her a kiss and welcome her home from
Most people would describe her small acreage where
the highway and river converge a hobby farm with goats, a pot
bellied pig, geese, ducks, dogs and yes - cats.
And it was the cats
that landed the woman in hot water.
“The cats got out of
control. But, what was I supposed to do, people would dump them here
and the poor little things would show up at the fence and then
they’d just stay,” says Gwen Wilson, who had 75 cats and one dog
seized by the SPCA and will possibly face charges of animal cruelty
for having animals that were in distress.
According to the
SPCA the cats, which were kept in a trailer-like facility with no
ventilation and a build up of fecal matter from 4 to 18 inches deep,
were suffering from varying degrees of distress, one of which was in
critical distress as identified by the SPCA’s veterinarian and had
to be euthanized on the spot, says Eileen Drever, the senior animal
protection officer with the cruelty investigation department.
But some of the
SPCA’s claims have met with some local resistance.
“The trailer was
left open during the day and the cats had freedom to roam. I have
been in and out of that trailer for the past five years and I have
never seen it like that (build up of fecal matter) and Gwen knew
they were coming – there is no way she would let it look like that,”
Kathy Stanley, a near
neighbour and former SPCA agent for the area.
According to the
SPCA a number of other cats have had to be euthanized and others are
suffering from a range of problems, mostly relating to upper
respiratory problems, distended abdomens, nasal discharge, ear
mites, and fleas.
“She meant well, she
gave homes to unwanted cats again and again until such time as she
had 75 of them, which she kept at great expense to herself, and it
created unhealthy living conditions,” says Roger Bate, the local
veterinarian in Hope who treats Gwen’s animals.
“In addition, the
cats contracted a disease which spread and spread until all of them
were infected to a greater or lesser extent, Rhinotracheitis spreads
like wildfire amongst cats,” added Bate.
“There is only so
much money a person has, and it seems like I was always at the vet’s
office buying antibiotics, eye ointment, and other stuff. I have
always put my animals’ needs in front of my own. They will eat
before I will and my widow’s pension never went to myself, it always
went toward my animals. I did not ask for any of the cats, they all
came to me,” Gwen said.
Gwen makes $8.25/hr
at the Husky/Mohawk in Silver Creek.
But, the loss of her
cats are not what distresses Gwen as she understands that things had
gotten out of control, it was her dog, Dakota, that was also seized
because of an old open sore on its paw. “They won’t give me Dakota
back until I pay them $3800 in 10 days (from Monday Jan. 30). The
rest of the bill, for $8000 (for the cats) I can pay back in monthly
installments. They are using the poor boy, he is stuck in the
middle,” says Wilson.
The $8000 bill was
for the care of the cats until they were signed over to the SPCA.
But, the SPCA did not ask her to sign the cats over to them until
they had been in their care for four days. “If they would have asked
me to sign them over sooner I would have” and the bill could have
been kept to a minimum.
It was, in many
ways, a relief to sign them over, the number of strays had got out
of hand… although I did come to love them all, says Gwen.
The dog is healthy
enough to be returned to Wilson but with any seizure the animals are
not returned until the owner pays the costs incurred by the SPCA to
care for the animals.
“The cats weren’t in
the best of health, they had a disease, but at the same time I don’t
think it is right that they should make her pay $8000. She was doing
her level best to give the cats a home that no one else wanted
anymore and her only mistake was not asking for help,” says Stanley.
The SPCA also works
with limited resources being a non-profit society and are not funded
by the provincial government and the closest shelter for cats is the
Chilliwack SPCA. But, we will definitely accept an animal that has
been abandoned. We would rather see an animal taken to a shelter
than be abandoned, abused or neglected,” says Drever.
But, for Karyn
Greenlees, who has a barn on Bristol Slough and has often been
saddled with stray cats, she says the SPCA in Chilliwack is not
always that willing to take an animal from Hope. “They will take
them from Hope, but you have to pay $50 for a stray cat that you
have to sign over as yours, and it is not yours – it is a stray.
There have been numerous times when I have called the SPCA and they
said they were full and to call back later. What was I supposed to
do with them in the meantime? I didn’t want to leave them wandering
around in the cold so I would take them to Gwen. She would always
take them because that is Gwen.”
Not all of the
animals were seized, but we did make recommendations for the others
and she has complied with them, says Drever.
We often see this
when a person starts off with good intentions and then they get way
over their head as word gets around that they will take animals in
and they end up with too many and they can’t keep up with it. I am
sure that this is the case here… adds Drever. All “people have to be
responsible for their animals and if they would have spayed or
neutered their pets, then this woman would not be in the situation
she is in now.”
“I love my animals,
I love them all dearly and I know that I did get overwhelmed with
the cats. But, looking back I don’t know what I could have done
differently and now I have lost Dakota… unless I come up with the
money” for the cats. “The only thing I can do now is reach out and
ask for a little bit of help. I just want my dog back, “ says Gwen.
If you would like to
help Gwen raise $3800 by Feb. 8 for the return of her dog donations
can be made at Envision financial account
231 Commission, Hope, BC V0X
AAS - February 26 2006: Gwen is
seriously ill in hospital after cancer surgery on February 14th.
She still needs help to feed her remaining animals. Please
send a donation to Gwen.