Hunger strike begins after SPCA invoice arrives
A Merville dog breeder who feels the SPCA unfairly seized most of her dogs in the summer is on a hunger strike.
In July, officials seized 71 dogs from Green Acres Kennels, leaving Nancy Kitching with six dogs and eight puppies. The SPCA said the dogs were removed from the property because they met the definition of distress. The animals were treated for periodontal disease, dermatitis and other health concerns.
"They basically ruined and took everything I worked for in the last 20 years illegally," said Kitching, a widow who built her business while raising two children after moving to the property 24 years ago.
Last week, she received a $9,000 bill for boarding fees, services, mileage and wages.
"They're targetting me," said Kitching, noting a woman in the same area who surrendered about 20 dogs to the SPCA but was not billed. "They're getting easy people like me; they're not doing their job of shutting down puppy mills."
She suggests the SPCA should track litters picked up by brokers at the Vancouver International Airport.
"They're abusing their power. They turned me into a criminal. It feels like I've been raped," said Kitching, who has empowered herself through Buddhism.
"How can I fight them? This is the only way I can do it. They have to be accountable. I want to be a voice for those dogs that are in garages and being bred six times...They're enforcing laws that they don't even have the right to do because it's so unregulated. Typical Canada, no regulations."
Kitching's stock included English and French bulldogs. She estimates she lost at least $50,000 worth of dogs.
Under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, an owner of an animal taken into custody is liable to the SPCA for costs incurred, says Marcie Moriarty, the BCSPCA's general manager of cruelty investigations.
"This is always explained to the animal owner," Moriarty said, noting owners are given the opportunity to surrender an animal at the time of seizure. "If they don't surrender at that time, they are responsible for the costs that we need to incur to ensure their animal is relieved from distress."
The non-profit SPCA does not receive government money to enforce provincial legislation.
While Kitching is on the hook for $9,000, Moriarty said the SPCA spent tens of thousands of dollars on her dogs. Kitching was billed because she did not immediately surrender the dogs.
"The costs that she would have incurred would have been the costs of veterinary treatment that was immediately required to relieve those animals of distress, and then boarding fees," Moriarty said. "She actually has a very small portion of what it took to save her dogs."
Kitching's operation, she added, fit the definition of a puppy mill, a place where dogs are bred repetitively, primarily for profit, with little to no concern for their welfare.
"Puppy mills aren't always the big warehouses with dogs stacked one on top of the other," Moriarty said. "This was an operation that had 71 dogs that were in distress."