Dog walker charged in animal cruelty investigation

A Delta dog walker who claimed six dogs were stolen from her truck has been charged with animal cruelty offenses related the dogs’ deaths.

Emma Paulsen initially claimed that the six dogs, including one of her own, had been stolen from the back of her pickup truck from a Brookswood park on May 13. She told police she had been walking the dogs there, and had left them in the locked truck while she used the washroom. When she came back, the dogs were gone.

A massive search of the area failed to turn up a trace of the dogs, nor did any of them turn up for sale or at Lower Mainland shelters.

Mia, Oscar, Buddy, Molly, Teemie, and Salty had their pictures splashed across local and regional newpapers and TV screens.

Adding insult to injury, some of the owners of missing dogs were contacted by scam artists claiming they could return the animals for a reward.

The dogs owners, and Paulsen, held a rally at the park a few days later and handed out flyers with the dogs’ pictures.

However, within a week, Paulsen allegedly admitted to private investigators that the dogs had died while her truck was parked in Richmond.

She had allegedly panicked and concocted the story.

The dogs bodies were later found in a ditch in Abbotsford.

Paulsen is now facing five animal cruelty charges and a charge of misleading police with a false report.

“We’re pleased with it, because it’s precedent setting,” said Marcie Moriarty of the B.C. SPCA.

Paulsen is charged under the provincial Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act with causing or permitting an animal to be in distress, and with failing to protect an animal from circumstances that are likely to cause distress.

It’s the latter charge that sets a precedent. It was enacted in 2012 after the slaughter of a large number of sled dogs in Whistler.

The idea behind the charge is that animal owners have to protect their animals from likely causes of harm, such as leaving them in a hot vehicle, or letting them roam in an area with sharp objects.

Under the Criminal Code, Paulsen is charged with neglecting to provide adequate food, water, or shelter, causing unnecessary pain and suffering, and killing or injuring an animal.

The charges were sworn Friday in Surrey. Moriarty did not know when Paulsen will be appearing in court to face the charges.

If convicted, the maximum penalty could be five years in prison, a fine of up to $75,000, and a lifetime ban on owning animals.

The SPCA can’t talk about the details of the investigation now that the matter is before the courts.

However, Moriarty said that despite the publicity the case has received, there have been a number of other incidents of animals left in hot cars.

On the weekend, the SPCA responded to a call in the Lower Mainland after a couple left two small dogs, a Pomeranian and a Chihuahua, in a closed car.

People should know that their animals can’t take that kind of heat, Moriarty said.

“We crank up the air conditioning, and we can barely sit in the car,” she said.

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