Sask. farmer questions distress in animal seizure

The owners of a large number of animals seized earlier this month under Saskatchewan animal protection laws say the agency in charge has too much power.

Animal Protection Services of Saskatchewan, along with RCMP officers and a veterinarian, rounded up hundreds of several species from a farm near Buchanan, Sask. Some of them have already been sold at auction.

Owner Bill Maximnuk said he had been told not to talk to the media but said the family had concerns about injuries to animals during the seizure and how animals grazing contentedly could be considered in distress.

“I had more than enough grass,” he said. “I had a whole quarter for 28 miniatures (horses) and 14 horses on three quarters.”

Protection officers took 364 chickens, 53 cattle, 42 horses, two donkeys, 217 sheep, about 30 goats, and 10 cats, according to the family. The family alleges that during the seizure a lamb was killed, nursing mother barn cats were taken but the kittens left behind, cows were taken without calves and vice versa, and a horse was injured.

Animals left on the farm included 17 horses and about 70 cattle. Under the law, owners have five business days to pay costs and have seized animals returned.

“If everything was so mistreated I could’ve paid $61,000 ransom to get them back,” Maximnuk said. “How do you define distress?”

The family had been given two weeks to take some corrective measures, including having horse hoofs trimmed, but say no one came back to check before the seizure.

He also said he couldn’t have his own veterinarian attend and that a person filming the seizure was threatened with obstruction.

“They have total control and immunity,” he said of animal protection workers.

APSS executive director Don Ferguson confirmed the seizure took place and the investigation was ongoing but couldn’t provide further details.

He said the complaint originated with an anonymous report.

“We did indeed follow what is our typical policy,” he said.

That involves providing owners with a corrective action order and giving them a time frame to comply. Ferguson said they later go to the location with a search warrant and a registered veterinarian, who assesses the situation and makes recommendations under animal protection laws and the codes of practice for each species.

The Animal Protection Act 2018 states that no person shall cause an animal to be in distress and no person responsible for an animal shall cause or permit the animal to be or continue to be in distress.

Distress is defined as: deprived of food or water sufficient to maintain the animal in a state of good health; deprived of care or shelter; deprived of veterinary care or medical attention; in need of reasonable protection from injurious heat or cold; wounded, ill, in pain, suffering, abused or neglected; kept in conditions that are unsanitary, will significantly impair the animal’s health or well being over time, cause the animal anxiety or suffering, or contravene the prescribed standards, codes of practice or guidelines; or, abandoned by its owner or a person responsible for the animal in a manner that causes, or is likely to cause, distress resulting from any or all the factors listed.

Ferguson couldn’t say what specifically led to the seizure in this most recent case. It can take months to determine if charges will be laid.

Those convicted under the act could face a fine up to $25,000, up to two years in jail, and a prohibition or restriction on owning animals for a certain time.

Meanwhile, another large seizure that occurred in April near Love, in northeastern Sask., is also still under investigation. Ferguson confirmed that 107 cattle were taken and multiple owners are involved.

APSS said most people comply with corrective orders and charges are laid in about two to three percent of cases.

The most recent conviction, according to the APSS website, shows the 2019 case of a Hudson Bay, Sask., man who was fined $1,000 and banned from owning or caring for animals for 10 years.

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