The B.C. Supreme Court has upheld a decision ordering an accused animal hoarder to pay more than $80,000 to the animal welfare officials that seized nearly 100 pets from her care.
B.C.'s Farm Industry Review Board initially ruled in December 2016 that Sandra Simans and her 1atatime Rescue Society must pay the BC SPCA $81,235.50 as the reasonable care costs it had incurred since taking in her animals.
Simans vehemently fought the order, maintaining she takes in suffering animals that no one else wants, and wasn't given a proper opportunity to address the issues brought up by the BC SPCA.
She denied being overwhelmed by the animals in her care, telling CTV Vancouver at the time many of the dogs she takes in are seniors between nine and 15 years old suffering age-related maladies.
"Some of them are old, some of them needed dental, some have flea-allergic dermatitis," she said.
But last week, the B.C. Supreme Court ruled against Simans, dismissing her petition for a judicial review.
Justice Anthony Saunders wrote that the BC SPCA was within its legal rights to "seize a distressed animal, without affording the person responsible for its care an opportunity to relieve the distress, if it concludes that the responsible person is unable or unwilling to take the necessary steps to do so."
In September 2016, 88 animals requiring "immediate care" were removed from Simans' Langley property after the BC SPCA received complaints that animals were in distress.
It was the third large scale animal seizure involving pets in Simans' care in the past five years.
The 45 dogs, 18 cats and 24 farm animals met the definition of distress under the Cruelty to Animals Act, including being malnourished, emaciated and some suffering severe periodontal disease and other medical issues, according to the BC SPCA. Three other deceased animals were found in a freezer on the property.
Three of the seized animals, including a paraplegic dog, were ultimately euthanized after a vet deemed it was the only way to relieve their "extreme suffering," according to court documents.
Veterinarian Adrian Walton, who examined the brood during the warrant execution, "observed that many of the animals were emaciated, lacking in basic hygiene, infected with fleas and tapeworms, and suffering from dental, skin, and other apparent diseases."
After the seizure, Simans said she would not allow the BC SPCA to rehome any of the animals, claiming her adoption criteria are much stricter.
But a review two weeks after the warrant execution by the BC SPCA's Chief Prevention and Enforcement Officer concluded that it was not in the animals' best interests to be returned to Simans, citing a perceived failure to provide "adequate space, exercise, a clean environment and veterinary services."
The website for 1atatime Rescue Society was not in operation Monday, and Simans could not be reached for comment.
Three BC SPCA seizures in five years
Simans has a long and fraught history with the BC SPCA that includes several warrant executions and the removal of dozens of pets from her rescue group.
Most recently, officers executed a warrant at her Langley home in March 2017 and removed 10 puppies, two dogs, four cats and one rabbit.
Marcie Moriarty, the BC SPCA's chief prevention enforcement officer, expressed frustration over being called to a property where a massive seizure happened just a few months earlier.
"The word 'rescue' suggests that animals are being taken in, rehabilitated and put in a better situation, and that's not what's happening here," Moriarty said in March 2017.
"These poor animals could be in homes getting treatment, and they're not."
And in 2012, 52 dogs and 19 cats were removed from the Burnaby home Simans was using for the rescue, after she was evicted for non-payment of rent, according to a court judgement. A dead cat was also seized.
Simans fought the seizure, and the BC SPCA returned 39 dogs and all the cats to Simans later that month for transport to a new location in Surrey, once "they could be assured that a new location for the animals was suitable for the large number of animals," according to the court case.
Thirteen dogs were not returned: one was euthanized and the rest were adopted out by the BC SPCA.
Simans was subsequently awarded $2,500 in damages from the BC SPCA, after a judge ruled the agency's press release about the seizure suggested she had caused injury to a Chihuahua in her care.
The animal rescuer took issue with the BC SPCA characterizing her as a "hoarder," but Justice John Steeves ruled the statement was fair comment and denied her claim for defamation.
"There is an element of obsessiveness in Ms. Simans’ care of her animals and this includes not being able to let go of animals she takes in. I conclude that the reference by the BCSPCA to her being a rescue hoarder was fair comment," Steeves wrote in his judgement.