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Lawsuit alleges wrongful seizure of Squamish cats

In response, the SPCA says 71 cats in distress were taken from motor homes.

After authorities seized her 71 cats, a Brackendale resident has filed a lawsuit alleging the animals were wrongfully taken from her.

On Dec. 24, Cheryl Balcilek, the plaintiff, filed a notice of claim in the Supreme Court of B.C.'s Vancouver registry.

The claim names the District of Squamish bylaw, the attorney general of Canada, the minister of justice for Canada, the District of Squamish RCMP, the BC SPCA, and the solicitor general of B.C. It also names one of Balcilek’s neighbours.

In the lawsuit, Balcilek, who is representing herself, alleges that District of Squamish bylaw and her neighbour, were "engaged in active theft of [her] property, which were several cats, and delivered them to the British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals…with the full knowledge that the cats were healthy and very well cared for."

She also filed an appeal with the B.C. Farm Industry Review Board, but she alleged it was an unfair “rigged” process where her witness list was denied, the claim says.

Balcilek is seeking to have all of her cats returned to her. She is also asking for punitive damages against the RCMP, the District of Squamish bylaw, the BC SPCA, the attorney general of Canada, the justice minister of B.C. and her neighbour.

Balcilek also claims her address was not on the map of the District of Squamish, and, therefore, the District was acting outside the boundaries of its jurisdiction.

She makes a claim that her neighbour and his associates have been staging scenarios in which she is accused of faulty driving skills, among other things.

“The plaintiff is accused of faulty driving skills while she is parked and another vehicle suddenly appears in the spot next to her, or has her vehicle assaulted while parked in those spots,” claims Balcilek.

“The plaintiff’s vehicle was in perfect condition at the time of purchase and now has several dents and scratches, making the plaintiff look like a reckless driver.”

She also makes claims that her neighbour engaged in acts of vandalism to her motorcoach, among other things

“The plaintiff is not sure what the motivation is, as since they announced themselves on those occasions, the plaintiff believes it’s entirely possible they entered on occasions they did not want the entry to be known,” claims Balcilek.

On Dec. 24, Balcilek also filed an application asking for the court to make an injunction against the BCSPCA. If granted, this would prohibit the society from disposing of, adopting out, neutering or performing medical treatments on any of the cats.

The BC SPCA filed a written response to Balcilek's claims in the Vancouver registry on Jan. 11.

In this document, the society opposed the plaintiff's position.

The organization said in its response that 71 cats were seized from Balcilek's residence on Sept. 28, 2021, from two motorhomes on the Squamish Valley Road. After the seizure, three cats died and nine kittens were born, bringing the total number of animals to 77.

According to the response, Balcilek sought the return of the animals, but the society told her on Oct. 29, 2021, that they would not be returned to her, as they had been found in distress and were likely to be returned to a situation of distress if given back to her.

As of Jan. 11, the society has transferred 47 of the cats to new owners, the response says. Thirty of the 77 animals were in the organization's custody as of that date, nine of which were in foster care.

The cats are burdening the society’s resources, the response says.

“The animals are placing serious strain upon the society’s limited resources in terms of staff time, expenditure of money, and use of space at society facilities,” reads the response.

“The society has a statutory mandate pursuant to the [Prevention of Cruelty to Animals] Act to take animals in distress into its custody. Additionally, the society takes animals into its custody that have been voluntarily surrendered for any number of reasons. Holding the petitioner’s animals constrains and limits the society’s ability to undertake its statutory mandate and to take other animals into its care. The society is funded primarily by private donation, yet it undertakes the public functions set out in the Act.”

Regarding Balcilek’s claims about her appeal to the B.C. Farm Industry Review Board, the SPCA response says that she “represented herself, testified, and called no other witnesses. The society was represented by counsel, who called one expert witness and two society officers as witnesses. Each party submitted numerous documents, including veterinary records, photographic and video evidence.”

The panel, according to the response, made the decision to allow four cats to be returned to Balcilek on several conditions. This included paying about $70,000 for the costs of the seizure incurred by the society.

The response says Balcilek failed to meet all conditions of the panel’s order, and, as a result,  the SPCA is allowed to keep the animals.

Regarding Balcilek's claim that District bylaw and the BC SPCA engaged in "theft" of the cats, the society responded: "There is no evidentiary basis for this bald assertion, nor is this point relevant to the question before the panel: whether the animals were in distress when the Society seized them; whether they would have remained in distress if left with the petitioner; whether returning the animals to the petitioner would return the animals to a situation of distress."

As of Jan. 12, none of the other defendants have filed a response to the plaintiff's lawsuit.


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