ALMAGUIN – Some local farmers are fed up with hypocritical attitudes in the treatment of farm animals.
“The deer are outside and nobody is knitting them a blanket,” said local farmer Klaus Wand of comments regarding cattle left outdoors in winter.
“They adapt to the elements,” he explained. “You can’t just take an animal who spent all of its life indoors and leave them outside, but these cattle were raised outdoors.”
During the Muskoka-East Nipissing-Parry Sound Cattlemen’s Association, held in Magnetawan on January, many of the members expressed concerns regarding livestock welfare while discussing the National Farm Animal Care Council’s draft code of practice, which closes for public comment on March 8. Some described feeling targeted by the humane society.
Wand said he thinks the humane society is interfering in an area its agents aren’t fully equipped to tackle.
“They think they know everything about animals because they read it in a text book,” he said. “People are too scared to speak up because they are afraid they will come after them.”
During the meeting, farmers swapped stories of humane society encounters, including being ordered to build shelters for cattle even though they had access to wooded areas.
“People see the poor cattle in full sun not realizing that they can go in the shade,” he said. “People are so far detached from raising farm animals.”
Powassan resident Sandy Briggs farms beef cattle and goats, along with being a dog breeder. She said she has had a run-in or two with the humane society.
“Every time they go somewhere, they look for something just to say they’ve been there,” she said. “Their favourite trick is that in the fine print at the bottom (of the order) it says they (the farmer) have 10 days to appeal. Then when the person appeals it, they cancel the order and reissue one on something else. As long as they have an order outstanding, they can come on your property any time.”
Briggs said when a humane society agent came onto her property to look at a cow that had a curled horn that had grown in deformed after being removed by a previous owner.
“She (the cow) gave her every sign that she was going to charge at her, but the inspector just kept walking toward her,” explained Briggs. “You have to be able to read an animal.”
Briggs also relayed the story of a friend who farmed chickens but no longer lives in the area.
“He was told he had to take all of his chickens to the vet because they looked sick, but they were molting,” said Briggs of the natural shedding and renewal of feathers that occurs about once a year.
Briggs, who is the area’s animal control officer, said she agrees with Wand. She said she doesn’t think humane society agents receive adequate training on livestock.
“How much can you learn in a couple of hours of training,” she questioned.
According to OSPCA Senior Manager of Marketing and Communications Alison Cross, OSPCA investigators are trained to the fullest in all areas of animal welfare.
“Our livestock training involves industry leaders and experts,” explained Cross. “We also work closely with several livestock commodity groups to improve our training process.”
Applicants must possess relevant experience, such as a background in police foundations or veterinary care. Once the candidates have passed the pre-screening phase, they begin knowledge-based training, including courses on professionalism, legislation, personal safety and animal care, and a livestock component.
“Our officers get a full week with Ministry of Agriculture and University of Guelph,” said Cross. “We are currently looking to expand this training week.”
The prospective agents are tested for psychological aptitude to ensure or enhance a proper mindset for dealing with the variety of people and situations that can be encountered on a daily basis, while adhering to the law during these situations. The entire agent training process takes twelve weeks to complete.
“With regards to our investigation process, our officers are trained to lead with education first,” said Cross. “When necessary we will bring in experts to assist us with our investigation. Experts will include livestock veterinarians.”
The OSPCA has been effective in taking on cruelty cases where the police are unable to act. One such case occurred in Chisholm in November 2011.
The North Bay Humane Society, an affiliate of the OSPCA, laid charges following the shooting of a horse named Chance, a black quarter horse and Clydesdale mix, who was shot and killed after wandering onto the property of a neighbour.
According to police, the neighbour said he came home in the early evening to find five horses on his property, including Chance.
After a gunshot in the air scared the other four horses off the property, he said he was forced to shoot Chance because the horse charged him.
Although the OPP didn’t find an appropriate charge, the investigation into the shooting was continued by the OSPCA and in June 2012, the shooter was ordered to pay $2,500 in restitution and complete 10 hours of community service for willfully causing an animal to be in distress.
Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) representative Pierrette Desrochers said she was unfamiliar with the farmers’ concerns until the Cattlemen’s Association in January.
“If the (affected) producer called and said this was happening, of course we would do our best to help them out,” she said. “But the producer needs to come to us. If we don’t get the call, we don’t know about it. It doesn’t mean it will change the outcome, but we can at least offer support.”
Desrochers said OMAFRA works to provide farmers with guidelines so they can better equip themselves and avoid being the target of an investigation.
“It’s easier to work proactively with someone than to just sit back and issue orders and charges,” she said.