In her own
words: Gwen's side of the story
(See previous articles at
Gwen Wilson was a vet technician at a veterinary clinic in Vancouver
for 22 years. Both then and now she has rescued and succored animals
in need. For years people have dumped cats at her gate in Hope or
given her cats found dumped on their doorsteps
because everyone knew that these cats would be looked after by Gwen.
On January 13, 2006, the BC SPCA raided Gwen Wilson and took Dakota,
one of her dogs, and all of her 75 rescued cats.
Many people, including an ex-SPCA Agent, consider this seizure to be
an abuse of the SPCA's power under the Prevention of Cruelty to
Animals Act, an Act that is written to relieve animal suffering,
not increase it. (See
Legislative debate in 1994 that forewarned of this abuse of power.)
felt like the SPCA had seized Dakota to use as a hostage"
Because Gwen was a vet tech at a Vancouver veterinary clinic for 22
years, she was adept at recognizing and treating animal illnesses
and experienced in administering medications and subcutaneous fluids
for old cats. Dr. Bates has been her veterinarian and treated all
her animals for years. "Everyone knew that I was at Dr Bate's
three times a week on average, my car was always parked outside",
Gwen told us. Dr Bate confirmed this in a conversation we had with
him, saying that he will say in court that Gwen was in his clinic
frequently for 20 years.
Gwen told AAS that the only thing wrong with her dog Dakota was that
he had an old, small wound on his leg that sometimes he licked open
but that she was medicating it. "It felt like the SPCA seized
Dakota to use as a hostage", Gwen told us, and indeed it is very
troubling that the SPCA behaves as if it has the power to seize a
happy, well-fed animal on the grounds of a small sore that is being
treated. That criteria would allow the SPCA to seize most animals at
some time in their lives. In fact,
the PCA Act,
the statute which governs the SPCA, does not permit the SPCA to
seize healthy animals.
asked the SPCA if I could take Dakota to my vet instead of them
seizing him, but they said no and took him. My niece went into the
Chilliwack SPCA and said that Dakota looked really depressed and
sort of lost looking, as though he was in a confused daze. He
didn't really respond to her, he just kept his head down. Hearing
that he was pining really tore me apart.
"My dogs and cats had three safe acres to roam and I took the dogs
to the creek and on hikes most days for 2-3 hours. All the dogs
could come in the house if they wanted to and they did during the
day sometimes, but they mostly chose to sleep in the warm hay with
the goats and the pig and they chose the freedom of the farm. They
were lucky dogs.
SPCA) said that the cats were thin and malnourished, but everyone
knows that I went every Thursday to the Hope Feed Store and bought a
car load of cat food, dog food, goat food and duck and goose food.
The cats had all the food they wanted, the feeding troughs were
SPCA demanded $3800 to give Dakota back
supplement her small pension, Gwen works at the local Husky
station. However, Gwen says that the SPCA gave her very little time
to get $3800 together for seizure costs for her dog Dakota or,
"It will be put down or adopted." And Gwen was told by
Constable Eileen Drever if she didn't get the $3800 together in time
the SPCA would dispose of Dakota and still come after her for the
money. It was a harrowing time for Gwen with the SPCA's threat of
criminal charges plus its demands for "seizure" money.
residents help to raise the funds to get Dakota back
people of Hope rallied around Gwen. A story in the
brought many people together to try to help the woman who many
people knew for her soft heart and her willingness to spend what
little she had on her animals. A carver donated a "Spirit in the
Woods" carving and raffle tickets
were sold for a few days, 3 for $10, until someone alerted Lotto BC
and Gwen was told to stop selling tickets.
People then sent donations to the Credit Union account that was set
up for Gwen, but with only three days left before the SPCA deadline,
Gwen was still short $2,200.
AAS wired the remaining monies to the Credit Union and Gwen paid the
SPCA $3800 to get Dakota back from the SPCA.
I went to get him, they led him out. He was stunned looking,
vacant, confused. And then he saw me, and he went nuts, kissing,
and jumping all over me. I don't know what I would have done if they
had killed him or sold him to some stranger. It was one of the
worst times in my life. "
It was in the middle of all this that Gwen was told that she had
cancer and would have to have immediate surgery. Post-surgery
infections and complications have kept Gwen in great pain and in and
out of hospital. She is now facing chemo or radiation therapy. Her
beloved animals need your help more than ever.
Please send Gwen money if you can:
Envision Credit Union at Box 1793, Hope BC, V0X 1L0.
would like a tax receipt, send the money to
AAS at Box 114, 103-1075 Marine Drive, North Vancouver, V7P
SPCA also demanded $1500 in post-dated cheques from Gwen for cat
seizure costs and told her that she had to pay another $2500 as well
or they would sue her for it. "They told me that they would
charge me and sue me. How could I afford to defend myself in two
courts?, Gwen asked. "They told me that I was never going to
get any of the cats back but I had to pay them $4000 anyway. I had
to surrender the cats. I had to give them the cheques. How could I
After the amazing show of support for Gwen in the community and in
the media, the SPCA returned her post-dated cheques. But they said
they still intend to press for criminal charges to be laid against
Gwen. The SPCA's Manager of Cruelty Investigations has presented
the pursuit of criminal charges against Gwen as a compassionate
thing to do, so that a court will order psychiatric counselling for
her. "Reading that made me feel awful. I was just out of the
hospital after cancer surgery and that really hurt me," Gwen
"People gave cats to me because they worried that the SPCA would
kill the cats if they took them there. Everyone knows the SPCA told
people from Hope that they had to pay $50 if they took a cat to the
Chilliwack SPCA. So people brought the cats to me. The SPCA did
not ever offer me any help with spaying or neutering the cats that
people gave to me.
About half of the cats had upper respiratory colds. I showed the
SPCA all the meds I used to treat the colds , but they took all the
cats anyway, even the well ones. They said that the cats' trailer
was full of feces, but it was not. Most of them did their business
outside and only came in to the trailer at night. The cats had
freedom of movement and some of them chose to sleep in the barn with
the dogs and goats and the pig that I rescued many years ago. Anyone
can tell you that the cats were given lots of love and attention,
and one of the SPCA people commented on how friendly they were.
"I had one old guy who had kidney failure and he was living out his
last days in my laundryroom in a soft bed with the heater on. I
gave him meds and sub-cu fluids ever day and he was happy. I showed
them all that and then they took him out into the yard and killed
him. They put the cats into those little cardboard cat cases, two
in each case, and then put them into the van. Some were in the van
for several hours, and then were trucked to Chilliwack. The SPCA
said that some were so sick that two died on the way and another had
to be put down when they got there, but they weren't dying when they
"What was I to do when people left their cats here? I could take
them to the SPCA who would probably kill them, or I could get my vet
to kill them (I wouldn't do that), or I could do the best I could
for them and that's what I did for them. They were happy here.
Sure some had chronic colds but that is what happens in all cat
shelters, including the SPCA. I wouldn't kill them, I got them
treatment and I treated the sick ones every day. Sure some were
thin, but they were old, not ill.
"What became of the healthy cats? Lots were healthy. Only half had
colds and they were getting better. I'd like to know what happened
to "Talker" a huge black and white shorthaired. He was so
friendly. He didn't have a cold, he was perfectly healthy. But
they took him too. I didn't think the SPCA could take healthy
animals. Talker would get crystals in his urine and his bladder
would get blocked and I would unblock it with a catheter. I gave
the SPCA all his meds and his catheter. I wonder if he is alive, he
was such a nice cat. I kept asking the SPCA where the cats were but
all they would say was that they were spread around. They told me I
was never going to get any of the cats back, so I surrendered them.
And then they still told me I had to pay them $4000 or they would
take me to court."
The goats and the
love all my animals and would do anything for them," Gwen said.
One of the goats in the Hope Standard's photo is "Lucky". "Three
times Lucky got sick with a kind of pneumonia and he was at Dr
Bate's for two to five days each time on IV and I went to see him
every day. I paid thousands to make Lucky well.
took "Aflack" the Canada goose that someone found in the lake with a
smashed wing, it had got caught in a boat propeller. He was brought
him to me about two years ago. He
hung out with the two other geese; they all toured around the three
acres everyday with the ducks and they all slept together in their
special house. The SPCA said I didn't have a permit for him and he
might be in pain. What pain? He was happy and well fed. When I
asked about him a few days later the SPCA constable told me that
they had put him down. I still don't know why."
How can this be animal welfare?
Gwen financially is taking food out of the mouths of her animals.
"How can that be animal welfare?", asked the editor of the Hope
Standard in a phone conversation with AAS. Others told us that
the whole community has been shocked by the seizure by the SPCA and
Hope council is wondering why the SPCA has so much more power than
even the police.
"I'm afraid of the SPCA, they might be back and take more of my
Please send Gwen money if you can:
Envision Credit Union at Box 1793, Hope BC, V0X 1L0.
If you would like a tax receipt, send
the money to
Box 114, 103-1075 Marine Drive, North Vancouver, V7P 3T6.
Return to Gwen Wilson lead page