Letter to the Editor – Farmers Forum Newspaper
The Ontario SPCA’s mandate is to respond to calls of concern for animal neglect and abuse, including farm livestock. Our agents use animal observation, their experience in animal care, and veterinarian-guided training to develop compliance orders based on standards of care in the OSPCA act and within the Code of Practice, which we use as a resource. The Code is not developed by the Ontario SPCA but through a collaboration of commodity groups, scientific evidence and veterinarians.
The Ontario SPCA wants to work with farmers to ensure that animals are getting the care they require. The case involving the Robinson’s cattle demonstrates how the Code of Practice functions. The Ontario SPCA and veterinarians made 11 visits to the property before charges were laid against the owners. Those visits served as surveillance of the animals’ care while allowing the owner’s time to address the situation and comply with veterinarian recommendations.
In the case of the Robinsons, an Ontario SPCA Inspector observed a number of cattle in poor body condition, where some had a body score condition of 0.5. These cattle were outside with no shelter, no hay and no visible water. Orders are written under the authority of the Ontario SPCA Act to provide the cattle with adequate shelter. These standards of care came directly from the Code of Practices.
In addition to utilizing the Code of Practice, when dealing with compromised animals, best practices for animal care are ordered to improve the condition of the animals. In the case of the Robinson’s cattle, this standard was exercised to ensure the compromised animals were getting the care they required. The orders to improve the animals’ care were recommended by two veterinarians.
When Ontario SPCA officers and veterinarians find 80% of a herd of cattle are dehydrated and have no water, orders are written as per the Code of Practice to correct this. The Robinson’s cattle were found in this inadequate state. Below is an excerpt taken directly from the Code of Practice on the importance of water for cattle:
Water availability and quality are extremely important for animal health and productivity. If the water supply is interrupted for more than 12 hours, an alternate watering method should be used. One lactating cow will drink between 80-120 liters per day. Water quality (e.g., palatability) affects water consumption. Cows will limit their water intake to the point of dehydration if the quality of drinking water is compromised (e.g., polluted by algae, manure or urine) (32).
Cattle must have access to palatable and clean water in quantities to meet their needs.
When an Ontario SPCA officer finds a herd of cattle with an average body score of 1.68 and only 14 out of the 85 head of cattle are in production, the Ontario SPCA officer will rely on recommendations of the veterinarian and the Code of Practice to write orders to correct this. Best practices are relied on to improve the condition of very compromised animals as deemed necessary for the animals’ wellbeing. When a veterinarian examines 65 animals and finds 52 of them below a BSC of 2 and only 14 of them in milking production, corrective action must be taken to improve condition.
Producers must take corrective action for animals at a BCS of 2 or lower.
The Ontario SPCA suggested that the Chair of the Animal Care Review Board visit the farm to determine if orders had been complied with. It was the Robinson's lawyer that declined that invitation, and the Chair elected not to assess the situation at the property.
When an Ontario SPCA officer is informed that a veterinarian will be working with a farmer, the Ontario SPCA will step away from any further type of action and allow the farmer to work with the veterinarian to improve conditions. This action was taken in the Robinson case. In this situation, the veterinarian involved contacted the Ontario SPCA to say that care of the animals had not improved, and reported the conditions remained inadequate. The Society followed up on the veterinarian’s concerns, as we are mandated to do so under the Ontario SPCA Act.
Prior to the court hearing involving this case, the Ontario SPCA officer involved receive threats to her life. In order to protect the agent and Ontario SPCA staff, the OPP became involved due to the seriousness of the situation. The Ontario SPCA takes the safety of its officers and staff as a top priority during investigations, and threats or intimidation will not be tolerated on any level.
The Ontario SPCA is willing to work cooperatively with the agricultural industry to improve animal welfare. The organization has collaborated very well with the agricultural community in the past, and has responded to many cases of neglect. We have also assisted with cases such as a barn’s collapse in the dead of winter, where 200 head of cattle were trapped, or during emergencies such as livestock trucks rolling over. We have worked countless times with farmers to save their injured or sick animals. The Ontario SPCA has also responded above and beyond our duties, such as when a local pork producer was about to lose their hydro and thousands of animals were at risk, by working together with the farmer to keep the animals protected from harm. The Ontario SPCA has and will continue to work as a team with farmers to ensure the animals are getting the care they require.
We thank you again for your time, and want to extend another open-ended invitation to meet with us in person to discuss the Ontario SPCA’s role in Animal Welfare.
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For more information contact:
Alison Cross firstname.lastname@example.org
Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
The Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Ontario SPCA): Protecting animals since 1873, the Ontario SPCA is a registered charity comprised of over 50 Communities relying primarily on donations to fund animal protection, care and rehabilitation; advocacy; and humane education. The Ontario SPCA Act mandates the Society to enforce animal cruelty laws and provides Society investigators with police powers to do so – making the Ontario SPCA unique among animal welfare organizations in the province. The Ontario SPCA is affiliated with the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.