Animal Protection Act challenged in Saskatchewan

A Saskatchewan farmer recently charged under the Animal Protection Act is appealing the seizure of his cattle and the constitutionality of parts of the act.

Andrew Mandziak of Hubbard was charged after 135 head were seized from his farm in late June. He is to appear in Melville court in October on those charges.

But he has hired Regina lawyer Tony Merchant to challenge the actions of Animal Protection Services of Saskatchewan in court.

Merchant began presenting the case last week in Regina Queen’s Bench court. He said there are two issues at play.

“The appeal is, what they did was wrong,” he said in an interview. “They didn’t have the right to take the cattle. They sold on four days’ notice instead of five.”

Mandziak is asking for a number of corrective actions.

While the cattle have already been sold, Merchant said it’s important for a judge to rule because it has an impact on others whose animals have been or may be seized.

The second issue is the request for a judicial review of the APA. Merchant called the act “draconian.”

“It gives power that we don’t give to police when they are trying to stop a drug salesman or trying to catch a murderer,” he said of the authority given to the APSS.

Mandziak claims the APSS officer searched his property without a warrant, and Merchant said the Charter of Rights and Freedoms gives protection against unreasonable search and seizure and breach of privacy.

In court, Merchant argued that APSS should have told Mandziak who had reported him initially June 8 because it turned out to be the veterinarian with whom he consulted after APSS had issued a corrective order.

Court documents state that an APSS officer went to Mandziak’s property two days later but that he doesn’t know where the officer went on his property at that time.

“On June 15, 2020, APSS contacted the informant,” documents said. “The details of the discussion are unknown to Mr. Mandziak. On June 22, 2020, the APSS contacted the informant again, who alleged that Mr. Mandziak’s cattle had been without water for two to three days.”

The corrective action order was issued June 23 and to be satisfied by June 25. The documents say that although Mandziak purportedly provided consent for a search on June 23, he hadn’t been fully informed.

The APSS officer allegedly applied for a search warrant on June 25, before the officer knew if he had complied with the corrective order.

The veterinarian Mandziak chose to check on his cattle, Dr. Deana Schenher, conducted a check and found he had complied, the documents say, yet before he could submit the report to APSS they had begun loading the cattle.

“APSS treated Mr. Mandziak in a high-handed and arbitrary way,” says the application. “APSS exhibited antagonism towards him and had arrived on his property on June 26, 2020, without prior notice. Had Mr. Mandziak not arrived back from the veterinarian at that time, the APSS would have seized his cattle in his absence.”

During the seizure, a calf that Mandziak was bottle feeding was euthanized by an animal protection officer, which Merchant said is an example of high-handed behaviour.

Although Mandziak had taken the required steps to comply with the order, APSS seized 135 head and two cows that had died of bloat.

Merchant argues that Mandziak arranged $26,718.34 to cover expenses requested by APSS to get his cattle back, but APSS refused to return them because Mandziak had filed an appeal.

In court, Merchant pointed out the costs seem high, as if the cattle had been put up at Regina’s Hotel Saskatchewan “and they were eating and drinking with joy.”

“At all material times Mr. Mandziak had a legitimate expectation that if he complied with the APSS demands his cattle would be returned,” the documents say.

At that point, APSS said the cattle wouldn’t be returned because of density issues. Mandziak has 14 quarters. Merchant also said the veterinarian with whom APSS consulted never attended the property or saw the land.

The cattle were sold without the proper five-day notice the act requires, he also said. As well, there is a video that APSS has refused to accept but Merchant said it’s important for a judge to hear and see what happened.

“APSS really is the investigator, the prosecutor and the judge,” Merchant said.

Mandziak said his reputation and livelihood have been ruined and that APSS’s conduct was legally incorrect. He didn’t want to comment further until the case is concluded.

Meanwhile, Meagan Bortis, the lawyer representing APSS, said the court should strike the application because it should have been contained in a notice of motion and statement of claim. She told court that a seizure can’t be appealed.

The case will return to court later this fall.

Merchant added he has had heard from other producers who have had animals seized and would like to hear from them again.

“My learning curve has been full,” he said regarding this case.

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