South Surrey dog owner wants record wiped clean

‘Notice of distress’ intended to educate, animal-protection officer says

Anita Tibbe

A South Surrey woman is at odds with the BC SPCA over a notice she was issued last month alleging that her dog was in distress.

Anita Tibbe said she was at home with her nine-month-old daughter and some family members Aug. 5, when she was visited by two BC SPCA officers, who told her they had received a complaint that her dog, Cohen, was in distress.

Cohen  – a 5½-year-old German shepherd – spends most of his time in the family’s fenced backyard, Tibbe said, where he has two beds under the covered porch, plenty of lawn and a covered stairwell leading to the basement.

Tibbe claims the officers wrote her a formal ‘notice of distress,’ indicating that he did not have adequate shelter from adverse weather, and would need to have an insulated dog house built within two weeks, or she would risk losing him and facing charges.

“To be told that we are not providing adequate shelter is over-the-top,” Tibbe said, noting that she is a lifelong dog owner who always considers dogs “a member of our family.”

Tibbe immediately emailed the BC SPCA’s senior animal-protection officer to dispute the claim that Cohen had been left in distress.

After some back and forth via email – including photos of their backyard showing where Cohen’s beds are – and a phone call, Tibbe said the officer agreed that Cohen wasn’t in distress, that the weather wasn’t adverse on the day the officers visited her home and that the notice shouldn’t have been written.

When asked to comment, senior animal-protection officer Eileen Drever  told Peace Arch News that she couldn’t discuss the particular case because of privacy concerns.

Speaking in general terms, Drever said that such notices are issued to pet owners as a means of “trying to educate people,” and that they remain on file as a matter of record for the BC SPCA.

“If we issue a notice to somebody, we do not revoke it,” Drever said. “It’s on our record.”

Drever said that in a “worst-case scenario,” legal action – such as a warrant for seizure of an animal or charges – could be taken.

While Tibbe was relieved that officials agreed Cohen was not in distress, she is upset that the BC SPCA won’t completely revoke the notice she was issued.

“I take great offence that my name is attached to a notice of distress,” she said. “None of it was true, and it shouldn’t have been written at all.”

Tibbe said she suspects it was a neighbour who made the complaint to the BC SPCA, noting that several other dog owners in her neighbourhood have had unexpected visits from officers in recent months, and said that is all the more reason why she wants the notice removed from her record.

“If these people are out to get me, now there’s a paper trail on me, and it can start to look really bad even though it’s not true,” she said. “You can’t start paper trails on people for doing nothing.”

According to Tibbe, Drever told her she was satisfied with Cohen’s conditions in their yard and on their deck, as long as his owners bring him inside during inclement weather, and saw no need for them to build him a dog house.

Tibbe was told she would receive a followup phone call from one of the visiting officers, but more than two weeks after her last correspondence with the BC SPCA, she hasn’t received a call or a visit.

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