Marlene Keefe (left) and Janet Olson address Langley Township council Monday evening.

Marlene Keefe (left) and Janet Olson address Langley Township council Monday evening.

Olson continues anti-tether campaign

Civic leaders support request from South Surrey woman accused in multiple dog thefts.

A South Surrey woman who faces trial on 37 criminal charges for allegedly stealing dogs from Lower Mainland backyards is continuing her campaign for a law that would ban chaining and tethering of dogs.

Janet Olson, identifying herself as a member of Ban Resident Dogs, appeared before Langley Township council this week to lobby for an anti-tethering law.

She did not mention her pending trial during her presentation, a sometimes-emotional speech that included a slide show with disturbing images of confined dogs.

“As long as this is legal, how can we consider ourselves a humane people?” Olson said.

Olson made a similar presentation to Surrey council last April and was invited to provide input on a bylaw banning the practice.

Co-presenter Marlene Keefe of Chilliwack told Langley council Monday that such a bylaw would reduce the number of dog attacks on people: “Chained dogs are three times as likely to bite.”

Olson and Keefe said at least two other Lower Mainland municipalities, Burnaby and Delta, have such a bylaw. They said a tethering ban could require fewer animal-control officer hours and create a safer, more humane community.

Following the presentation, Langley council unanimously voted to have Township staff investigate an anti-tethering bylaw. Olson received a similar response after addressing Langley City council last month,

After Monday’s meeting, Mayor Jack Froese said council was not made aware of the charges against Olson, but that “anyone can make a submission.”

Olson, a founder of A Better Life Dog Rescue, is scheduled to appear in Surrey Provincial Court for a trial-confirmation hearing on April 10.

Court records show the 59-year-old airline pilot faces multiple charges of theft, break and enter, possession of a break-in instrument and fraud in connection with a series of alleged incidents from 2006-’11 in White Rock, Surrey, Langley, Vancouver, New Westminster, Abbotsford, Chilliwack, Coquitlam, Delta and Richmond.

Olson was first arrested in November 2011 in connection with the theft of a bulldog from a Coquitlam backyard.

A Surrey woman who was arrested at the same time, Louise Reid, later pleaded guilty to stealing two dogs, including the bulldog.

Reid was handed a conditional discharge, a year’s probation and an order to pay $2,500 restitution to the owner of one of the dogs.

Surrey RCMP said the arrests were the result of tips about a number of animal thefts throughout the Lower Mainland in which animal-welfare uniforms were used in the heist.

The investigation revealed that several pets were adopted out for a fee of between $300 and $400 to unknowing adoptees.

More charges were laid against Olson and five other women as the police investigation continued.

Olson faces the highest number of charges.

Last November, she was jailed for almost a week for allegedly breaching bail conditions. Olson was released from the Surrey Pretrial Services Centre after posting a $50,000 cash bail.

A judge imposed an 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew and forbid her from possessing a cellphone or any dogs other than the two she already owns.

She was also ordered not to visit any websites associated with dog-adoption; not to have any contact with directors or volunteers of A Better Life Dog Rescue except through her lawyer; and to return any mail to the rescue agency that comes to her address unopened and marked ‘return to sender.’

Speaking outside Surrey Provincial Court in December 2011, Olson said she had a “moral right” 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.”

– with files from Tracy Holmes and Kevin Diakiw