Belinda Lyall says unfounded complaints prompted BC SPCA investigators to visit her Salmon Arm horse rescue.
On Thursday morning, April 13, several BC SPCA vehicles arrived at the 20th Avenue SE property where Lyall runs BC Horse Angels, a not-for-profit organization with a mandate to save horses from slaughter and/or neglect.
Lyall said the SPCA investigators arrived at the property with a warrant to check out a report of animals in distress.
“This started last week; the BC SPCA showed up, they put a notice on the gate, said there were horses in distress,” said Lyall. “I asked why and they said someone had phoned in and said the horses were all emaciated.
“I said, well let’s go look at them, there’s no emaciated horses here. And he said he didn’t have time and then he said he didn’t know enough about horses so he didn’t come in and they left. So I called them and said this is obviously a malicious complaint, there’s no emaciated horses. And they said well, we have to do our job…”
BC SPCA senior protection officer Eileen Drever confirmed a concern had been received from a member of the public.
“We attended and were told to come back with a warrant. And we’re back there today,” said Drever, who was unable to go into specifics as the investigation was still in progress.
“What normally happens is if we receive a concern, we attend and if there is a concern about the condition of the animals, we will give the owner or caregiver an opportunity to rectify a problem,” said Drever. “We were not given that last week and we were told to come back with a warrant. So today we’re examining, I would imagine, all the horses, and then if there are any issues, then we would normally issue a notice to rectify the problem and then we give people some time to do this.”
Lyall explained her frustration with the BC SPCA’s visit stemmed from ongoing harassment by individuals who do not support BC Horse Angels’ mandate.
“I’ve been harassed repeatedly over the years with this stuff, fake complaints, on and on and on,” said Lyall. “These people are even writing my donors, like Jann Arden, who donates, and the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition. They’re sending encrypted emails that can’t be traced, and they’re claiming that horses are dropping dead here and they’re claiming that if they’re giving me money, they’re just funding dead horses.”
Lyall said her harassers claimed several horses in her care died last year. In December 2022, Lyall publicly explained how three horses had died due to a shipment of toxic hay.
“In 20 years of saving hundreds and hundreds of horses, I’ve lost a grand total of four horses,” said Lyall.
As of April 13, there were 57 horses in Lyall’s care.
Angela Den Otter resides in a house next to the fields where Lyall keeps her rescued horses. Den Otter said she told the police and the SPCA that if Lyall doesn’t take good care of her horses, nobody does.
“She’s very dedicated,” said Den Otter. “The one horse that looks a little bit skinny is actually 38, which is unheard of for a horse. And she makes it a warm mash and brings it over from her house every day to feed it to them. She takes very good care of the horses.
“I think there are some very disturbed people out there that just like to cause trouble for people. Somebody reported something, If you look at the horses, they’re possibly on the side of plump rather than emaciated.”
Amid the investigation, Lyall said she attempted to make sure the horses had enough water and was told by BC SPCA investigators that she was obstructing the investigation and they’d be calling the RCMP. Soon after, two RCMP cruisers arrived, and two officers spoke with Lyall.
Frustrated by the experience, Lyall maintained the horses in her care are far from distressed.
“They’re all saved from slaughter, most of them came in horrific condition…,” said Lyall. “They’re all in great health, they’re happy and you won’t find happier horses anywhere.”
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