NORTH OKANAGAN - A 100 Mile House man who claims to be the owner of numerous pit bull puppies taken by the SPCA as part of a cruelty investigation says he was set up.
Richard Stewart, a breeder who operates Big B.C. Bullz, says he was evacuated earlier this month due to a wildfire threatening that community and took his seven breeding dogs and 28 puppies to a property in Sorrento, owned by his girlfriend’s father.
Some of those dogs were taken into the custody of the SPCA last week following a bizarre sequence of alleged events, the full circumstances of which remain unclear. The situation came to light when a group, formerly known as a Soldiers of Odin chapter, now called Okanagan Community Watch, posted: "Puppy mill took down, I have 30 pure bred blue nose pit bulls puppies that need homes" on various Facebook pages. In subsequent posts, they said the dogs were "removed from horrendous conditions where cross-breeding was evident from a tip received." The group acted without informing the SPCA.
In a telephone interview, Stewart told iNFOnews.ca he went into town to get dog food on July 16 and when he returned to the Sorrento property, a group of people — including his girlfriend’s dad — chased him off the property.
He says he rented a U-haul the next day to collect the dogs, but the SPCA had already arrived and taken 15 dogs into their care. He says the other 20 dogs are missing.
“There was probably a 12-24 hour period when… the dogs were locked up in cages,” Stewart says. “The dogs would have been an absolute mess, which would explain the condition of some of the dogs.”
According to the SPCA, some of the dogs had hair loss issues relating to malnutrition. Stewart says the hair loss could be stress-related or because a few of the females had yeast infections and couldn’t be given medication until their puppies were weaned off.
“I’ve talked to the SPCA. They’re investigating the dogs. They’re doing a check-up to make sure the dogs aren’t neglected. I have to prove ownership and prove I have vet coverage, which I can do when I get home,” he says, adding his dogs are healthy and up to date on shots.
He says he contacted the Salmon Arm RCMP to file a theft report over the dogs, but “the RCMP won’t look at the case.”
Salmon Arm RCMP Sgt. Scott Lachapelle says officers provided assistance to the SPCA when the dogs were taken into the society’s custody, but confirmed they have not opened any theft investigation.
He says an individual claiming to be the owner of the dogs did contact the detachment, but they redirected him to the SPCA.
Stewart has posted about the dogs in numerous buy and sell groups, Facebook pages, and in the comments section of our original story.
Stewart makes a lot of claims, few of which could be verified. He said he believes he was scammed and set up by his girlfriend, and in a message sent after the interview said he thinks the “SPCA is a fake and the RCMP are in on it.”
When contacted, Stewart’s girlfriend declined an interview.
The whole situation came to light last week after the Okanagan Community Watch posted about taking down a puppy mill and needing to find homes for 30 dogs. The posts suggested the dogs were in horrendous conditions and removing them was a “time sensitive matter.”
Asked if he can explain the Okanagan Community Watch’s involvement, Stewart says he has no idea.
“I think they should be shut down because it’s a crock of poop. They should not have been posting my dogs for sale. I don’t know, honestly. I’m trying to juggle this in my head… I don’t know how it came to be on their site,” he says.
Posts by the Okanagan Community Watch never indicated the dogs were for sale. They stated the dogs were free to good, loving homes, but that donations would be accepted for vet bills.
iNFOnews.ca has sought clarification from the Okanagan Community Watch multiple times. On Tuesday, July 25, we received our first response from the group:
“I am going to get more solid information as I am unsure of some details as we weren't directly involved in the abduction but more so approached to assist with adoption. I will issue a statement once I can iron out all the details,” a group administrator said via Facebook Messenger.
The SPCA has not released any updates on the investigation.
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