B.C. SPCA seizes homeless dog, but owner still homeless | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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B.C. SPCA seizes homeless dog, but owner still homeless

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A homeless B.C. man whose dog was seized by the SPCA has failed in his attempt to have his dog returned to him, and with bitter irony, while the man remains living in a homeless camp, the dog now has a roof over its head.

The case involves a three-year-old Husky-type dog called "Blue" and Randol Harris, a homeless Abbotsford man who carries all his possessions in a shopping cart.

While the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act states that animals are in distress if not provided "adequate" food, water and shelter, along with protection from "excessive heat or cold" Harris did not have access to these conditions himself.

While there is no denying that Harris abused his dog, he did provide more than a dozen character witnesses saying he was a good dog owner.

After multiple complaints about the way Harris treated his dog the B.C. SPCA determined Blue was in distress.

In November 2021, the B.C. SPCA then seized Blue.

Harris applied to have the dog returned to him, but the B.C. Farm Industry Review Board dismissed his appeal.

According to a recently published Dec. 23, 2021, B.C. Farm Industry Review Board decision, the B.C. SPCA received over 20 complaints throughout 2021 about Harris abusing the dog.

Most of the complaints came from anonymous callers about a malnourished, underweight dog. Some callers said they'd seen Harris physically abuse Blue by punching him in the face and kicking him.

The dog had also been tied to shopping carts and told to "mush" by Harris hitting Blue on the head. Complainants said the dog looked "emaciated."

According to the decision, Harris had got Blue when he lived in a suite in Abbotsford but had later moved to a parking lot. He had been regularly moved on from the parking lot by police and bylaw officers and kept all his possessions in a shopping cart.

As evidence the B.C. SPCA presented two videos taken by a member of the public of Harris hitting Blue.

After saying that the complainants were all "full of shit" Harris admitted to hitting Blue but said he didn't do it harshly as the dog didn't yelp.

Harris said on the day the videos were taken he'd drank a bottle of Crown Royal whiskey someone had given him and when he woke up his pants were on fire and lots of his stuff had been stolen.

The decision says Harris blamed his dog for not guarding him.

READ MORE: North Okanagan kennel owner loses fight to have seized dogs returned

The B.C. SPCA presented evidence from an animal behaviour and welfare specialist that visited Blue while the dog was in foster care.

The specialist concluded that Blue suffered anxiety and fear because of the way Harris had treated the dog.

The animal behaviourist concluded that Blue was in a state of distress when with Harris.

Harris disputed that he treats the dog badly and presented letters of support from 11 people in the community that had helped him buy dog food and pay vet's bills.

The supporters said the video of Harris hitting Blue was a one-off, was "accidental and unintended" and he should be given a second chance.

"They describe (Harris) as a loving owner and the dog as an essential companion, they see a strong bond between them and believe they should stay together," the decision reads.

One witness testified that they owned a business next to where Harris camped and while the business owner had originally complained to the SPCA about Harris they had gradually got to know him.

"(The business owner) didn’t see a problem with the relationship between (Harris) and the dog and the dog never appeared to be in danger," the decision says.

Another witness said they were "shocked" by the video of Harris hitting the dog. The witness said the dog seemed "happy and content" and was good for Harris' mental health.

An outreach worker also testified that Harris cared for the dog, had the dog’s best interest at heart, and had never seen him abuse Blue.

However, the Review Board found that the abuse wasn't a one-off situation.

"As a result of prolonged mistreatment, the dog has become conditioned to be passive as depicted in the video interactions," the Review Board ruled. "On this basis, I find the animal was in distress at the time of seizure and was in pain and suffering, and as such, the seizure was justified."

The Review Board says that while Harris feels a strong emotional and close bond with his dog, it has to make a decision based on the dog's best interests.

It dismisses Harris' appeal to get his dog back and orders he pay $1,163 in costs.

"The (Review Board) has decided to not return the dog to (Harris) and permits the (B.C. SPCA), in its discretion to destroy, sell, or otherwise dispose of the dog," the decision reads.

Harris in the meantime will no doubt continue to live on the streets.

READ MORE: Princeton woman loses appeal after 67 dogs, 27 horses seized from property

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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