A Surrey woman charged with animal cruelty in connection with the February 2016 seizure of 82 distressed animals has been found guilty.
In Surrey Provincial Court Wednesday, Xin (Ivy) Zhou received two years probation but – despite a request from Crown – no lifetime ban from owning, caring for or possessing animals.
Judge Daniel Weatherly did, however, ban Zhou from owning, caring for or possessing domestic animals for the next seven years.
In rendering the penalty, Weatherly said he had to consider that Zhou, 51, has no prior record.
“Most importantly, she did not intentionally harm these animals, and today, she’s expressed a willingness to learn how to take care of animals properly,” Weatherly said after delivering the guilty verdict that morning.
The decision concluded seven days of trial that began April 23.
BC SPCA had announced in 2016 that Zhou had been charged under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, following the seizure of 67 cats, 12 dogs and three puppies from a property in the 19400-block of Colebrook Road.
According to a 2016 news release, the cats seized were primarily Persians and short-haired exotics; the seized dogs included four French bulldogs, a Boston terrier, a Pomeranian with three puppies, a Chihuahua, a poodle, a Rottweiler, a Doberman, a Jack Russell terrier and a shiba inu.
Zhou was charged with a single count of causing an animal to be in distress. The charge encompassed all of the animals that were deemed to be in distress, prosecutor Kelly Johnston confirmed to Peace Arch News outside court Wednesday.
Weatherly recounted witness evidence that detailed animals found in dark, inadequately ventilated and unsanitary conditions, with many suffering from conditions including ringworm and respiratory illness.
While the court heard during trial that Zhou had taken animals to the vet about 80 times for treatment or diagnosis of various conditions, Zhou’s evidence was that “very few” animals were sick, Weatherly said.
She also claimed that SPCA officials who had visited her property on previous occasions “wanted her cats because they were expensive,” and that they had given her instructions on what she should do regarding their care “about 10 times.”
Those instructions, she testified, were not translated into Mandarin and Zhou “estimated she understood 10 per cent of what they said.”
The judge said he “did not find Miss Zhou to be a credible witness.”
“At times her evidence made no logical sense,” he said.
While defence counsel Chen Shen had submitted a defence of due diligence – noting Zhou had taken steps to improve the animals’ conditions and that it didn’t require that perfect standards to be met – Weatherly said the facts at bar “are far, far below” perfect standards.
Prior to sentencing, Zhou – who had told court she knew 30-50 English words – spoke to reporters without a translator. One person at the scene who speaks Mandarin said Zhou had told media she planned to appeal the decision.
At the sentencing hearing, Shen told Weatherly that a lifetime ban on animal ownership is “not warranted.”
Through an interpreter, Zhou – asked by Weatherly prior to sentencing if she had anything she wanted to say – told the court that her “lifelong goal is to be someone… who can take care of animals well.”
“I wish your honour would give me a chance, let me learn how to let the animals live happier, healthier life,” she said. “I’m prepared to work hard at it for the rest of my life.”
Both Crown and defence had agreed a suspended sentence would be appropriate.
Weatherly also imposed conditions including that Zhou perform 100 hours of community service by year’s end, and that she is not to live at any residence where domestic animals are present.
Zhou is schedule to return to court in January 2019, faced with a charge of breaching conditions while awaiting trial. She entered a not-guilty plea on that charge Wednesday afternoon.