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Homeless man wins appeal after dog seized by B.C. SPCA

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A homeless B.C. man who put electrical tape around his dog's jaws as a makeshift muzzle so he could spend the night in a shelter has won an appeal to have his dog returned after it was seized by the B.C. SPCA.

According to a Sept. 7 B.C. Farm Industry Review Board decision, the dog's owner — referred to only as G.G. in the decision — needed to stay in a homeless shelter with a policy that dogs needed to be muzzled.

Not having a muzzle, G.G. took some electrical tape and wrapped it around his dog's mouth so he could have a bed for the night. G.G. later testified he only put the tape around the dog's mouth because he "needed a place to sleep" and accepted that it was a cruel thing to do.

The decision said the dog, called Milo, quickly managed to remove the tape, while G.G. got into a confrontation with staff at the shelter who told him to remove it.

Prior to the incident G.G. had been staying at a different homeless shelter in Port Alberni that didn't require Milo to be muzzled. However, on the morning of the incident, the shelter had said it was full and G.G. would have to go to a different shelter to sleep.

When G.G. and Milo arrived at the new shelter he learned about the muzzle policy and then the incident with the electrical tape took place.

The decision said G.G. then walked back to the old shelter and tied Milo up with a long shoelace asking "anyone" to look after him.

"He then proceeded to walk away," the decision said.

Staff at the shelter reported an abandoned dog tied up outside and within 30 minutes Milo had been taken into the care of the B.C. SPCA.

The case highlights that an abandoned dog can be given food and shelter within 30 minutes of having nowhere to live, whereas G.G. didn't have access to the same services himself.

READ MORE: B.C. SPCA seizes homeless dog, but owner still homeless

The following day G.G. returned and found Milo had been seized by the B.C. SPCA.

He applied to have Milo returned, but the B.C. SPCA refused.

The B.C. SPCA said it had taken Milo into its care once before when G.G. was hospitalized and Milo had also been cared for twice as a stray.

The animal welfare organization said it "worries that Milo’s future will be unstable and uncertain, especially given your willingness to abandon him for other people to look after (it)."

The SPCA said it was not in Milo's best interest for G.G. to get his dog back.

G.G. then appealed to the B.C. Farm Industry Review Board in an attempt to get Milo back.

READ MORE: B.C. man accused of abusing his dog twice gets it back again

Fortunately for G.G., the Review Board saw the case differently.

In the eight years since G.G. had owned the Labrador retriever he had adequately provided for his care, the decision said.

G.G. was staying at the homeless shelter because his house had burned down a week before. He is now living in a fifth-wheel on the site.

The Board also seemed sympathetic to G.G.'s situation and his behaviour on the morning in question.

"The (Review Board) finds that the events of that morning presented new and unanticipated challenges for (G.G.) that simply became unmanageable," the decision read.

The Review Board dismissed the B.C. SPCA suggestion that G.G. could have simply purchased a muzzle in a pet store.

"This strikes the (Review Board) as unrealistic," the decision says. "When the events of that day are placed in context, (G.G.) did not so much intentionally disregard his obligations to Milo but instead became overwhelmed by the unexpected circumstances he found himself in."

The Review Board also highlighted the steps G.G. had made to get Milo back.

"Although homeless, likely facing some life challenges and lacking the resources many of us take for granted, (G.G.) attended at the Society’s offices to learn what to do next and managed to file a request with the Society for the return of his dog," the decision says. "In that request, he described Milo as his family, that he would do nothing to hurt him and asked them to take special care of Milo’s belly which was tender from surgery a few years ago."

The Review Board said it was obvious G.G. cared for Milo and was remorseful for putting the electrical tape around its mouth. The decision said the dog was in good health when it was seized.

Ultimately, the Review Board ordered the B.C. SPCA to hand Milo back to G.G. with certain conditions regarding future veterinary care.

The decision also said G.G. was ordered to pay the B.C. SPCA $1,658 for Milo's care, but payment of this amount was not a condition for getting his dog back.

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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