Many readers will remember Trooper, the injured cat found frozen to the ground in a driveway in Newfoundland, CA in February of 2012. Gwen Samms of SCAAPA Animal Shelter in Stephenville, NL was finally called to the scene after the homeowners, who may have hit him with their car, ignored him for days. Trooper lost a leg following the incident, not because it was broken, but because of the frostbite. Gwen was Trooper’s savior; she rescued him, got him medical help and eventually adopted him. The Troopers for Trooper Facebook group started for him became a place where animal lovers networked to help other animals after Trooper’s life was sorted out.
Now Gwen Samms is in trouble because of a dog she took in when she was contacted by the RCMP and asked to help. The dog was taken from his owner in a seizure in January, along with many other birds and animals, but the case was wrapped up with a small fine and the owner was allowed to get his animals back. Gwen was not pleased to learn that the owner would be able to get the dog back but was willing to comply with the law. However, the owner did not make arrangements to get the dog in a timely fashion, leaving Gwen to think that, by law, she was not obligated to return him. Authorities saw things differently, came to her property on March 20 to take the dog, and charged her for refusing to give him back. Her case is scheduled to be heard in June, and she is trying to secure the services of a good lawyer and to mount her defense.
Gwen has earned a lot of good will from her friends and supporters for her work helping animals and doing rescue work over the years. Now her supporters are standing by her side.
CBC radio interview discussing the case with Gwen Samms, from Friday, March 22.
A photo album at Facebook, I WAS Officially Charged, documents the RCMP’s seizure of Daemon, the dog in question, from SCAAPA. Another album, Daemon learning to play with toys, showed the dog in happier times.
A Save Daemon Facebook page begun in the dog’s name has refocused on Gwen and the case against her, but the primary Facebook page centered on the effort to support Gwen is the Help Gwen Get a Lawyer page.
A petition has been started “to back Ms. Samms upcoming fight in court.”
Here is Gwen’s own account of the circumstances surrounding the case:
I am the President and Manager of The Society For The Care And Protection Of Animals (SCAPA) at 15 Utah Drive in Stephenville, NL. I am the victim of what can only be termed a serious injustice, along with a breach of my personal privacy rights.
On January 21, 2013, the Port aux Basques RCMP received a complaint about neglected animals at a home in Cape Ray and subsequently enlisted help from a local animal advocacy group, the Port aux Basques Scaredy Cat Rescue.
According to eye-witness accounts by the rescuers, the following was discovered upon arrival at the property: the living conditions were horrible with absolutely no food, water, or bedding for any of the animals. There were more baby chickens dead than alive. 23 were removed but unfortunately 6 of them later died as well. There were also 3 ducks in one enclosure, 3 turkeys in another, and about 20-25 Rhode Island Red Hens in yet another. Sadly, half of them were dead too. One of the 2 cats seized had a hard time walking because of frost burn/bite and the paws were starting to turn purple. All they had for shelter was a wire cage with a tarp over it and a little box inside.
The animals were then seized by the RCMP. At the request of the Police, one of the PAB SCR members took the 2 cats into her care, and a volunteer took the surviving birds; but there was no place to put the dogs. I was later informed that the Police tried to reach the NL West SPCA that night but were unable to do so.
The following morning, Tuesday, January 22, 2013, I received a call from Officer Ian Dollimount of the Port aux Basques RCMP. He explained the situation and asked if SCAPA would take custody of the dogs. I agreed and he asked me to contact the PAB SCR to make arrangements to have them transported to us. I did this ASAP and then called the Vet to make an appointment for them to be seen as soon as they arrived. A volunteer brought the dogs to Stephenville on Wednesday, January 23, 2013. I met them at the Vet Clinic.
Upon examination, the female, Maggie, appeared to be in very poor condition and blood work was recommended for her. The results of that blood work showed a significant drop in BUN, indicative of starvation/decreased intake of food VS liver failure. R/O/Differential Diagnosis: dehydration, inadequate nutrition. I faxed a copy of the Vet’s report to the Port Aux Basques RCMP.
It was agreed that Maggie would need a lot of one-on-one attention and it would be best to place her in a foster home, so that was done. There were special meals prepared for her and a lot of tender loving care provided. The male husky, Daemon, was taken to SCAPA where he received warm shelter, good nutrition, access to a large enclosure, and plenty of healthy, social interaction.
Shortly after getting Daemon settled in at the shelter, I received a call from the owner to my private, unlisted, home phone number. When I asked him where he got that number, he informed me that the RCMP had given it to him. That was the only time the owner contacted me.
On February 9, 2013, I received a call from Officer Dollimount advising me that the owner was now allowed to have all of the surviving animals back. I told him I thought that decision was wrong, but I DID NOT refuse to let the owner have the dogs back.
The owner contacted the others who were caring for his surviving animals and I believe he picked them up that same day or the next day. (He relinquished ownership of Maggie and she was adopted into a loving home where she is thriving.) We waited, but he DID NOT contact SCAPA, either to inquire about Daemon or to make arrangements to come and pick him up. After six weeks had passed, we considered Daemon abandoned and therefore now the property of SCAPA. We had waited way beyond the usual, standard 72-hour holding period utilized by animal advocacy groups/shelters across the province, and likely across the nation.
A couple of weeks later, the owner’s step-son and 3 of his friends came to SCAPA twice in one day, but never did he claim or ask to take the dog.
Then, on March 20, 2013 – 3 days short of six weeks after the owner was told by the Police that he could have his dog back — the step-son came to SCAPA with a Police escort, pulled out a letter, and told the volunteers it stated he could take Daemon. He said it was signed by the Police and dated for that day, March 20, 2013 . . . but he wouldn’t let the volunteers read the letter or provide a copy of it. We were told on February 9, 2013, that the owner could have his dog back. So why was the letter dated March 20, 2013?
In any case, the volunteer then called me and I immediately went to the shelter. Please note that, as with the volunteers, I was never given the letter or a copy of it to read. In front of the step-son, an RCMP Officer demanded that I give him my home address. I reluctantly did so, but expressed my opinion that it wasn’t right to require that of me. I had concerns, and rightfully so; a short time later the step-son’s vehicle was noted to be driving up and down the road in front of my home. Giving out my personal, private telephone number and making my home address known is not only unacceptable and a serious breach of my privacy rights, but could, in fact, put me and members of my family in physical jeopardy.
We explained to the Police that in six weeks no one had come to claim Daemon; so he had, in fact, been abandoned and was now the property of SCAPA. Indeed, we had waited long past the 72-hour holding period. Later a Police Supervisor came and said she’d like to adopt the dog. She was told that it’s up to SCAPA who animals are adopted out to, and her request was declined. So the Police called Dr. Hugh Whitney’s office, Chief Veterinary Officer, and were told that SCAPA doesn’t have the right to make any policies. Of course, that’s ridiculous! We are a legal, registered charity and – if for no other reason than that – we must have policies. We can’t operate without them. I’d like to know of one – just one – charity that operates without polices. I respectfully suggest that such an entity doesn’t exist.
The Police then obtained a warrant, took Daemon, and proceeded to the Police Station where they turned him over to the owner’s step-son. Before leaving SCAPA premises, however, they charged me with animal theft – “theft under $5000.00” – and court is scheduled for 9:30 AM on June 17, 2013.
Once again, I want to make it very clear that SCAPA DID NOT refuse to give Daemon back to his owner. We were informed of the decision to return his surviving animals on February 9, 2013. The owner did not call to check on the dog or come to claim him. After six weeks, Daemon had clearly been abandoned and was the property of SCAPA.
How long are SCAPA and other non-SPCA organizations supposed to hold an animal that enters our care before that animal becomes our property and is entitled to have a second chance at a better life? Must we hold them and care for them for the remainder of their lives, just in case an owner decides in 6 weeks, 6 months, or 6 years, that they want their pet back?
To add insult to injury, when I asked the RCMP about reimbursement for expenses incurred in relation to Maggie and Daemon’s care, I was told I would have to take the owner to court to ask for it BECAUSE SCAPA IS NOT A BRANCH OF THE SPCA. We are a small, non-government funded charity that struggles every day to give a voice to the voiceless . . . some of the most vulnerable, innocent, neglected, and abused in our society. And the RCMP asked SCAPA to take custody of Daemon and Maggie. This is the thanks we get? We don’t have any legal representation, or any funds to acquire same.
Are all non-SPCA organizations required to go to court to ask for reimbursement of expenses related to animals taken into our care if an owner comes wanting their pet back or, as in this case, when asked to do so by the RCMP? And if so, why? Is our care considered substandard to that of the SPCA groups?
We may run our shelters/rescues differently than the SPCA, but that doesn’t mean we should be condemned or charged for having the best interests of the animals at heart. Not only is there room in this province for all the existing animal advocacy groups, we actually need more.
Gwen Samms, March 26, 2013
For more information or to show support, you can visit the Help Gwen Get a Lawyer page at Facebook.
Despite her legal troubles, Gwen continues her work helping the injured and homeless cats and dogs in her area.
3 thoughts on “Gwen Samms: Trooper’s Rescuer Needs the Support of Her Friends”
Gwen, I support you 100%+ – you’re doing a wonderful job, for the love and safety/health of our living beings who can’t speak for themselves. It’s such a shame we live in this so–called equal opportunity world of ours, when clearly there are still those who won’t/don’t take care of those they’ve adopted, or taken on. A pet is forever – a member of the family, supposedly. Sometimes I’m so ashamed to be a part of this ‘human’ race. I for one dearly love all animals [except maybe snakes, of which we have none here in NZ], and now volunteer at our local RNZSPCA in our little city. I was taught to respect all, including animals, and was brought up with a household of pets.
Please don’t let people put you off the wonderful work you’re doing. Love and hugs from New Zealand.
This is just plain stupid. What the hell is wrong with our laws.
Gwen did the right thing. The police charged the wrong person. So sad they have no common sense.