Sixty-three dogs were retrieved by the BC SPCA from the Dogway Dog Rescue Society in Mission last Wednesday (Jan. 4).
The BC SPCA says the dogs were suffering from medical and psychological issues when animal protection officers took custody.
Cherry LaTour is a director with Dogway and maintains the innocence of the organization. She says dogs come into their care already dealing with physical and psychological problems. LaTour says Dogway has rescued upwards of 4,000 dogs in its 15 years of operation. The organization has been a registered society in BC since November of 2011.
“We don’t make these dogs distressed,” LaTour said. “They come to us distressed. They come from meat markets in [other countries], they come from brothels, they come from terrible situations where they are beaten.”
The SPCA says dogs were exposed to extremely high ammonia levels, which resulted in coughing.
“[High ammonia levels] can also irritate the eye membranes,” says Eileen Drever, senior officer of protection and stakeholder relations for the BC SPCA. “Some of the dogs had dental issues. One had a broken toe and for others, there was matting.”
The dogs received treatment from veterinarians and were also examined by a certified animal behaviourist. Approximately 20 dogs remain at Dogway.
“We did not remove all of the dogs, we only removed the animals that we determined were in distress,” Drever said. “We will continue to monitor the other animals to make sure that they continue to be okay.”
Dogway features a six acre property with cleared fields and an in-progress 3500 square foot kennel with vinyl floors from a local flooring company. The kennel is designed by an architect who has researched other kennels and plans have been submitted to the City of Mission. Dogway is waiting on building permits.
“Temporarily, they’re in a house,” LaTour said. “There’s eight billion people in the world. It’s probably a nicer place than half of them live in. It is a beautiful home.”
According to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, an animal is considered in distress if it is deprived of adequate food, water, shelter, ventilation, light space, exercise, care, or veterinary treatment. They are also considered in distress if conditions are unsanitary, they are not protected from excessive heat or cold, or they are injured, sick, in pain, suffering, abused or neglected.
“We consulted with [veterinarians] and we made the determination that 63 of those dogs were in distress and removed as a result,” Drever said. “Some of them were deprived of adequate water, ventilation, space and exercise.
“And neglected – the ones that we removed – they fit that definition.”
“Dogs are not neglected. It’s not true – we absolutely refute that completely,” LaTour said. “We have worked for months and months with some of these dogs that are distressed and finally they feel safe.”
Drever says the BC SPCA has issued notices to Dogway in the past with respect to living conditions, veterinary care, and keeping animals in unsanitary conditions. She complied with previous recommendations.
“If the animal is [in distress], we then have to give the owner an opportunity to rectify the problem,” Drever said. “We cannot repeatedly issue notices about the same problems over and over again.”
LaTour says Dogway followed the recommendations of the SPCA’s behaviourist and had proven to them that the dogs were progressing in their psychological development. LaTour says Dogway spent upwards of $60,000 on veterinary care in 2022.
“What happened is we have a big laundry room and all the blankets basically are washed every day. So there’s a big cart of pissy blankets,” LaTour said. “If there was an emergency, we would tend to it and if there’s something that the dog appears that we deemed to be in distress, medically, we would attend to it.”
“If they don’t follow the recommendations, then we don’t have a choice,” Drever said. “Then we have to take legal action, which could include the application and the execution of a warrant to remove these animals — that’s what happened in this case.”
“We have five staff and some of them have been here for 10 years,” LaTour said. “These people are exquisite dog lovers, and they’re not going to stand by while dogs are not treated well.”
The investigation is still ongoing but the BC SPCA anticipates it will recommend charges to Crown counsel under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. Drever says the investigation has been passed on to the special provincial constable.
“We’re going to continue with our plans and we’re going to refute any allegations,” LaTour said.
The dogs are in the BC SPCA’s community animal centres recovering.