SURREY – A retired Air Canada pilot who ran an animal rescue operation out of Surrey will be sentenced next month after pleading guilty to two counts of break-andenter and two counts of theft related to her "rescuing" dogs she considered to be mistreated out of their owners’ yards.
Janet Olson, 61, appeared in Surrey provincial court for a daylong sentencing hearing Friday before Judge Melissa Gillespie.
Originally facing 38 charges related to alleged incidents throughout the Lower Mainland, Olson pleaded guilty to the four crimes and will be sentenced Feb. 24.
Crown prosecutor Michelle Wray argued for a conditional sentence, or house arrest, for 12 to 18 months while defence lawyer Craig Sicotte maintained house arrest is not necessary but held out community service as an option.
Olson delivered a lengthy and teary statement to the judge, saying she didn’t start out in dog rescue with any intent of stealing abused dogs, but grew frustrated by the SPCA’s "failure" to protect the animals from neglect.
"If freezing and starving dogs near death do not warrant the SPCA’s protection, what animal I wonder does?" she told the court. "Compassion has been the sole motivation for all my rescue work," she added.
Olson, who operated Surrey-based A Better Life Dog Rescue and sunk plenty of her own money into it, also quoted Martin Luther King Jr.
"He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it," she quoted.
Olson asked the judge to consider the harm, distress and stress she’s been through over the past three years following her arrest. She’s already been in jail for six days, which she described as the worst six days of her life. She said she also received death threats, had to sell her house to pay her legal fees and had to take early retirement from Air Canada, where she worked as a pilot flying from Vancouver to places like Hong Hong and London.
"Animals suffer every bit as much as we do," she told reporters outside the courthouse. "Pain, loneliness, boredom, neglect, torment. It is so rampant in this country because we have some of the weakest animal cruelty laws in the world, far behind even some third world countries."
The Crown characterized her as a vigilante.
"My defence is I am not intentionally breaking the law, I am intentionally enforcing it," Olson said.
"A vigilante means a person who takes the law into their own hands, and I don’t dispute that I am a vigilante, if that’s the definition, because I have taken the law into my own hands because no one else is taking that law into their own hands."
"I broke the law," she said, "but I did not do anything wrong."