Pair allegedly stole dogs, adopted out as 'rescue' pets
Bethany Lindsay, ctvbc.ca
Published Thursday, December 1, 2011 7:53PM PST
Two women who operate a Surrey pet rescue centre are being accused of stealing dogs from people's yards and then adopting them out to animal lovers.
Janet Olson, the 58-year-old founder of A Better Life Dog Rescue, and her co-director, 59-year-old Louise Reid were arrested last week and have been charged with break and enter and theft under $5,000.
According to police, Olson and Reid wore uniforms saying they belonged to an "Animal Welfare" service, disguised their licence plates and removed healthy dogs from yards while no one was looking.
Investigators say they watched as the duo spirited away a bulldog named Samson from a Coquitlam yard on Nov. 21. Both women were promptly arrested.
Olson told CTV News that she and Reid were rescuing the animal.
"That dog was at risk of freezing to death," she said. "We don't steal dogs."
She added that she hopes the public is outraged about the charges against her, and that people will push for more protection for animals.
"These are sentient creatures. They deserve to have their rights protected by society," she said.
Olson has also been charged in connection with a dog stolen from a Surrey home in April.
According to A Better Life's website, the rescue centre is run by "a group of volunteer animal lovers who help homeless neglected and abused dogs find caring, responsible homes."
The site says the dogs include animals seized from puppy mills, rescued sled dogs, strays and abandoned pets.
A Better Life does not have a shelter, and says its dogs are cared for in "foster homes throughout the Lower Mainland, where they are loved and well cared for as they await adoption into their forever homes."
Surrey Mounties say that several unsuspecting new owner received "rescue dogs" that were actually stolen. A Better Life charges adoption fees starting at $350.
This isn't the first time that A Better Life has been accused of using nefarious means to acquire animals.
A Facebook group called No Better Life collects stories from pet owners who claim that their dogs were stolen by Olson and then put up for adoption.
A note entitled "Hunter's Story" outlines the tale of an Airedale cut from his chain using bolt cutters and taken from a family's yard on Jan. 18, 2008.
"We soon found ads for an Airedale fitting the description of Hunter from a rescue clinic called A Better Life Dog Rescue. We then tried to get a hold of them to verify if it was Hunter but soon found out that this organization was both non-cooperative and was selling dogs for a profit," the unsigned note reads.
The group accuses Olson of actually taking pictures of the dogs and advertising them online before stealing them.
"The more research we do, the more people we find in Seattle and the [Greater Vancouver Regional District] that have had dogs stolen. All of the stories appear to be the same; a clear and organized approach to stealing people's pets has emerged," the note says.
Owners of a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and a Chihuahua cross also claimed that their animals were stolen in 2008, only to appear on the website for A Better Life.
Surrey RCMP say they are aware of the historical allegations against Olson and Reid, and are looking into them. Investigators are asking anyone whose pets have gone missing under suspicious circumstances to call police.