A pair of Surrey women who run an animal welfare organization are facing several charges related to an elaborate animal theft scheme.
Janet Olson, 58, founder of A Better Life Dog Rescue, and 59-year-old Louise Reid, who is a co-director of the organization, were arrested Monday, Nov. 21 and have been charged with break and enter and theft under $5,000 regarding a family pet.
Olson, also an Air Canada pilot, has also been charged in relation to the alleged theft of a dog in Surrey on April 13 this year.
Olson told The Leader outside the courthouse Thursday she had the moral authority to take the dogs.
“There’s humanitarian reasons to help animals,” Olson said. “If you saw an animal on the side of the road with its throat slit ear to ear… are you not going to rescue that dog and take it to a vet? Did we have a right to take that dog? Yes, we had a moral right to take that dog.”
The investigation began when the Surrey RCMP received information about a number of animal thefts throughout the Lower Mainland, where suspects were using animal welfare uniforms in the heist.
A Better Life Dog Rescue, and Olson were identified as suspects from the outset.
“This investigation quickly revealed Olson and Reid were operating their charitable not for profit organization beyond the scope of its mandate and allegedly unlawfully acting beyond their good will intentions,” said Cpl. Surrey RCMP Drew Grainger.
Police believe the pair targeted homes with a healthy, unattended pet in the yard. Wearing uniforms to make them seem to be animal welfare officials, they removed the pets from the private property.
Members of the Property Crime Target Team say they observed Olson and Reid enter the backyard of a Coquitlam residence where it’s alleged they walked away with a bulldog named Samson on Nov. 21.
The two women were arrested immediately.
“That dog is shivering all the time, and its water bowl was frozen,” Olson said.
Police are still unclear as to the alleged intentions of Olson and Reid, but the investigation revealed that several pets were adopted out for a fee to unknowing adoptees.
The fee for that adoption was between $300 and $400, according to Grainger.
Olson said there are no profits to be had in her business.
“We do not make money in dog rescue,” she said. “The adoption papers are $300.”
She hopes the case heading before the courts causes huge public outrage and causes change, particularly at the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
“The SPCA is not doing the job that they have been asked to do and that people think that they do…” Olson said.
She said the fact she works as a pilot with Air Canada has nothing to do with the case before the courts, nor, she said, is the airline concerned that she is facing charges.
“If anything, my employers are quite supportive,” Olson said.
Grainger said since the story broke, investigators have been flooded with calls from people alleging their pets were taken by Olson, Reid and A Better Life Dog Rescue.
Surrey RCMP are appealing to the public to come forward with any further information from witnesses or other victims whose pets may have suspiciously gone missing in the region. Information can be directed to the Surrey RCMP at 604-599-0502 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS.