Horses on auction list lead to fears of sale for slaughter

13 03 2007

From today’s Globe and Mail. While I think horse slaughter is despicable, I agree heartily about the overbreeding. People need to start thinking in terms of what their breed needs, and what their discipline demands, instead of just throwing horses together because they can. (And get your damn dogs and cats fixed while you’re at it) We also need tougher animal cruelty laws in Canada and elsewhere.

An Ontario animal-welfare agency was thrown on the defensive yesterday after an auction notice listed for sale four animals in its care. Horse lovers had feared the animals might be sold for slaughter.

On the weekend, word spread on a horse fanciers’ discussion board that the Claremont Horse Auction, which takes place in a town just north of Toronto, included four animals from the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in its website’s description of lots for a March 15 auction.

The OSPCA is empowered to seize neglected or maltreated animals, which are cared for until they can be adopted or found a place in one of dozens of operations that care for abandoned animals.

Representatives for the OSPCA, which acknowledged before a legislative committee last year that it is having difficulty matching donations to expenses, insisted yesterday that there was never any question of auctioned animals being sent to a slaughterhouse.

But they agreed that the organization is feeling the strain of caring for abandoned or maltreated horses while trying to find them new homes.

The auctioneer in charge of the March 15 sale could not be reached yesterday. Shortly after calls were placed to the auction house and the OSPCA, the auction’s website was altered to remove the reference to the agency’s animals.

Speculation that the horses might be sold for meat or rendering were wrong, an OSPCA official said.

“There’s two sides to every story and they’ve gotten some information and run to a conclusion that’s not necessarily so,” said Hugh Coghill, the OSPCA’s acting chief inspector.

The OSPCA investigates animal cruelty, operating 22 branches across the province. According to the agency’s figures, it investigated 16,478 complaints and took in 6,782 abandoned animals in 2005. That year it removed more than 250 horses.

Mr. Coghill said the staff member who administered the horse-adoption program at the OSPCA was under some strain and resigned from that position several weeks ago, although not from the OSPCA. That left the organization scrambling to find alternatives for the 14 horses it is now boarding.

At the same time, the OSPCA’s finance department was wondering why the organization was spending money boarding horses, at a cost of roughly $200 a month for each one, when it didn’t do the same for cats and dogs. In some cases, it was boarding horses for as long as a year, Mr. Coghill said.

“I suggested the livestock inspector speak to the auctioneer and see if we could arrange . . . if we took the horses to the auction that he could stop the sale and announce they were SPCA horses,” and require the buyer to sign an agreement ensuring the horses went to a good home.

“As a result of us making an inquiry . . . they put it on their website that four horses are coming to this sale,” Mr. Coghill said.

The auction was only one of several options being discussed, OSPCA chairman Jim Sykes said yesterday.

The OSPCA receives about $120,000 annually from the province for training its approximately 200 animal-protection officers. Mr. Sykes said he learned yesterday that the organization has now been approved for an Ontario Trillium Foundation grant.

He confirmed that about half of the organization’s board of directors resigned last year after the province gave the group a $1.8-million grant. The resignations were in protest over financial-management issues.

“The difference between what we were spending on animal welfare and what was being raised by donations and special events and other fundraising projects was about $3-million,” Mr. Sykes said. “It’s still about the same but we have ideas about where to go from here.”

Part of the problem, one expert says, is that North America has too many horses.

“There’s too many horses being bred and not enough places for them,” said Donna Hiscok, who owns True Colours Farm in Campbellville, Ont. “There is not a market for them.”




5 responses

13 03 2007

In addition to “tougher animal cruelty laws in Canada and elsewhere” please consider who will be enforcing those laws.

14 03 2007

Could you expand on that?

14 03 2007

The Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA) currently has the police power to enforce all animal legislation in the province – federal, provincial, municipal and specialty laws i.e. dog owner’s liability Act etc.

Debate surrounding the OSPCA, its branches and affiliates (i.e. humane societies) is not new. Better Farming Magazine (April 2006) writes the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) formally demanded the province remove police powers from the OSPCA in 1989.

Here are some facts consider: The OSPCA is called forth by the OSPCA Act to enforce the province’s animal cruelty laws. The Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (R.S.O. 1990, Chapter 0.36) is administered by the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services (MCSCS). (To read the OSPCA Act: The OSPCA however is not administered by MCSCS nor the Ministry of Agriculture. Under current legislation it is permitted to operate autonomously.

The OSPCA is a registered charity with an annual budget of about $12 million. Revenues are mainly from private donations, but the OSPCA also receives monies through provincial grants, animal control contracts with municipalities, and other sources. (OSPCA Annual reports including financial statements are available at

Even though it enforces legislation on behalf of the Government of Ontario, the OSPCA’s status as a private charity means that it is exempt from the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA) as well as from scrutiny by the Province’s Ombudsman.

Here is where concerns and problems arise. Section 11 of the OSPCA Act grants the inspectors and agents of the OSPCA and its affiliates police powers to enforce animal cruelty laws.

Public law enforcement is well-funded by the government and well-trained. This is not the case with the OSPCA, which is essentially, a private police force. Posted job requirements to become a full time OSPCA inspector are a Grade 12 diploma, a driver’s license and to be bondable. Training is inhouse and consists of one to three weeks; however, additional professional development courses are made available to inspectors and agents. Compare this with Ontario’s rigorous constable selection process.

Imagine the impact on OSPCA fundraising efforts if they didn’t have high-profile cases? The worst animal abuse cases generate the greatest amount of revenue for the OSPCA.

Justice Anton Zuraw writes in a 2005 acquittal ruling available at the OSPCA (Hamilton Burlington SPCA) is “a private police force empowered in cases involving animals to lay charges and seize property, using these charges or seizures to campaign for funds for their private coffers.” “The Hamilton SPCA (local OSPCA affiliate) was more interested in raising money than saving what it believed were abused horses.” “…The perception of bias that looms over all the Crown evidence of this case is like a stake to the heart – totally damaging the Crown’s ability to prove its case.”

Much emotional and financial damage can occur when a private agency is given police authority with no oversight and accountability. Better Farming showcases one such instance in their November 2003 cover story “The Limping Pig” available at All charges against the farmer were dropped just prior to trial, without explanation, apology or restitution.

Similar cases exist across the province and a growing number of citizens and experts are demanding reform of the OSPCA Act.

In May 2006, 29 OSPCA Board of Directors quit including the Chair and Treasurer stating government, not the humane society, should be in charge of enforcing laws to protect animals and to prosecute offenders. Resigned OSPCA director, Garnet Lasby stated in a May 15, 2006 article in the Toronto Sun “The OSPCA should be involved in welfare of animals and education, not in criminal investigations and prosecutions.” “That should be a government role, but they won’t change the OSPCA Act unless there’s public pressure.”

Do we need the OSPCA? Absolutely! But not as a private police force that depends on publicity and high-profile cases to get donations.

What’s the solution? The OSPCA Act needs to be changed so that animals are protected against abuse and neglect, and so that our Charter rights against the abuse of police powers are protected as well.

If you have a story to share or if you want more information about the issue or how you can help improve Ontario’s animal welfare system, contact

15 03 2007
22 11 2007
Angie J

That they are at Auction to end up in the slaughter house is presuming alot. I bought my daughter her first pony (mini horse) at Claremont Auction; An extavigance I could not have afforded if I had purchased privately.

I recently bought myself a Gelding at the same Auction house. I chose the person I bought from carefully, as, I heard him asked by a perspective buyer,… HOw much do you expect to get for her (a 8 month Paint filly)…… I dont realy care,.. He said, .. I just want her to go to a good home. SOLD!

This particular Auction House also auctions items for a Horse Rescue in our area, always stating,….. this is a beautiful item and if you buy it it is going to a good cause…..

There are also often Rescue people at this particular auction. Dont be so quick to judge. Base the opinions on fact.

Angie J

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