Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Further Letters from Doctor

Previous Letters from Doctors

From: Pat Gaviller
Sent: Monday, November 15, 2010 4:55 PM
To: Ward McAlister/OSPCA
Subject: Re: Apalachian Chief
Hello Ward
It is my understanding that you tried to reach me today by phoning my former clinic. I will try and call you but as we are in the process of moving to B.C. and currently have no phone and no cell service at our place in B.C. I am frequently unreachable by phone. Therefore email may be the easiest way to contact me. I am somewhat confused by your mention of letterhead to my former clinic manager as nowhere in my previous email/ letter to you was the Country Hills Veterinary Clinic even mentioned and I have no email letterhead for the clinic. I would be happy to answer any questions you might have.
Kind regards,
F. Patricia Gaviller D.V.M.

From: Ward McAlister [mailto:wmcalister@ospca.on.ca]
Sent: Tuesday, November 16, 2010 8:02 AM
To: Pat Gaviller
Subject: RE: Apalachian Chief
Hello Dr. Gaviller,
My investigator found your contact on the internet and I assumed, mistakenly your original message was sent using their account. My apologies.
Anyway I wished to speak to you directly and give you a update and a overview of what we can and cannot do under the OSPCA Act.
Please  Google “Ontario Society for the  Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. O.36.” .
Hope this clarifies some of the challenges we face when dealing with issues of animal welfare in the Province.
Thank you
Ward McAlister
Sr. Inspector Central Region,
& Investigation Advsior
Hello Ward,
I apologize for taking so long to get back to you but life has been very busy. I did Google the reference you suggested – I had in fact already looked over the current version of this Act in detail prior to my initial letter. Then and since I have also perused the website of the OSPCA and the Alberta SPCA. Having dealt with issues of animal abuse in practice on a number of occasions I know how difficult they can be to deal with. I know that education is the 1st priority and is the preferred approach versus animal seizure and owner prosecution.
However to quote the Canadian Agri-Food Research Council’s Recommended Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Farm Animals: Horses (the underlining is mine)…
1.1.4 It is the responsibility of people working with horses to be knowledgeable of the proper care and handling of horses. Ignorance is not acceptable as an excuse for cruelty and neglect.

Besides it is my understanding that the owner of Apalachian Chief is registered with the Ontario Racing Commission and has worked as a groom so even ignorance is a hard pill to swallow as an excuse in this case. And as I also stated in my original letter I would rather be able to examine an animal and see for myself – that has not been possible in this case. Nevertheless to quote your own Act –
Veterinarians’ obligation to report
11.3  Every veterinarian who has reasonable grounds to believe that an animal has been or is being abused or neglected shall report his or her belief to an inspector or an agent of the Society. 2008, c. 16, s. 8.

And so I chose to report what I felt and continue to feel to this day, is a bona fide case of animal abuse in the form of neglect. Again to quote the Act –
Standards of care for animals
11.1  (1)  Every person who owns or has custody or care of an animal shall comply with the prescribed standards of care with respect to every animal that the person owns or has custody or care of. 2008, c. 16, s.
18.1 HYPERLINK "http://www.e-laws.gov.on.ca/html/statutes/french/elaws_statutes_90o36_f.htm" \l "s18p1s1"(1) Every person is guilty of an offence who,
 (b) contravenes or fails to comply with section 11.1;

And although finding these regulated standards of care took some doing I was able to find them …, relevant sections are quoted below – the asterisks are mine as I believe this is where the owner is falling short of her responsibilities.

Basic standards of care for all animals
2. (1) Every animal must be provided with adequate and appropriate food and water. O. Reg. 60/09, s. 2 (1). ***
(5) Every animal must be provided with an adequate and appropriate resting and sleeping area. O. Reg. 60/09, s. 2 (5). ***
(6) Every animal must be provided with adequate and appropriate,
(a) space to enable the animal to move naturally and to exercise; ***
(b) sanitary conditions; ***
(c) ventilation; ***
(d) light, and;
(e) protection from the elements, including harmful temperatures. O. Reg. 60/09, s. 2 (6). ***
(7) If an animal is confined to a pen or other enclosed structure or area,
(a) the pen or other enclosed structure or area, and any structures or material in it, must be in a state of good repair; ***
(b) the pen or other enclosed structure or area, and any surfaces, structures and materials in it, must be made of and contain only materials that are,
(i) safe and non-toxic for the animal, and ***
(ii) of a texture and design that will not bruise, cut or otherwise injure the animal; and …

Now I understand from some of the blogs where well-meaning people have tried to bring attention to Chief’s plight, that there have been some 17 (?) visits by the OSPCA to the premises in question; and the OSPCA’s own press release states that orders have been issued and the owner has complied with these orders. Well I’m sorry, but from the photographs (and a picture is worth 1000 words) it would seem that compliance lasted at the most a day or 2 before Chief’s stall was back in an unsanitary state, his water bucket was empty, and his food supply was again very questionable – present in insufficient amounts, often not reachable/ present at all, and of very poor (in fact I would call it ‘inappropriate’) quality.

Of course the results of the OSPCA visits also beg the question as to how it was that the owner managed to have food, water and clean bedding present and timed so well with these visits when it appears blatantly obvious from the photographs and documented reports that this was the exception and not the rule?
One would almost suspect that the OSPCA had a leak and that somehow the owner was made aware of the impending visits – but I’m sorry, I digress.
As I’ve been investigating Chief’s case I’ve also become aware that the OSPCA has come under fire in recent months and years for a number of seizures of animals that were later returned without prosecution and indeed with the implication that the seizures were in fact not legitimate. I can understand that this might make the OSPCA particularly cautious now, not wanting to act too quickly if a case does in fact not warrant seizure. However given the continuing sorry state of Chief’s domicile I can’t believe that the OSPCA’s inspectors can believe this is true in his case.

The only actual improvement I can see in the last 2 months is a mild (and I stress mild) weight gain – but this is likely only a small regain of some fat stores; there is no sign of regaining lost muscle. And he still has an unhealthy bloated appearance. That pendulous belly is also unlikely to be fat – I would be suspicious of intestinal parasitism and/or bloat due to poor digestion related to poor quality forage/ poor feeding regimen in general. Using the Body Condition Scoring System for Horses I would suspect that he at best would be a ‘3’ – however without being able to ‘feel’ him this is only a best guess. Of course the ideal score in this scale is a 5.

3 - THIN Fat built up about halfway on spinal vertebrae, transverse processes cannot be felt. Slight fat cover over ribs. Spinal vertebrae and ribs easily discernible. Tailhead prominent, but individual vertebrae cannot be visually identified. Point of hip appears rounded, but easily seen. Point of buttock evident. Withers, shoulders and neck accentuated.

And to quote the OSPCA act in terms of non-compliance…, again the asterisks are mine – although I am not privy to all the dates of the visits or details of any orders I would surmise from the photos that the orders are not being appropriately complied with...
Authority to determine compliance with order
11(6)  If an order made under subsection (1) remains in force, an inspector or an agent of the Society may enter without a warrant any building or place where the animal that is the subject of the order is located, either alone or accompanied by one or more veterinarians or other persons as he or she considers advisable, and inspect the animal and the building or place for the purpose of determining whether the order has been complied with. 2008, c. 16, s. 10 (3).

Taking possession of animal
14.  HYPERLINK "http://www.e-laws.gov.on.ca/html/statutes/french/elaws_statutes_90o36_f.htm" \l "s14s1" (1)  An inspector or an agent of the Society may remove an animal from the building or place where it is and take possession thereof on behalf of the Society for the purpose of providing it with food, care or treatment to relieve its distress where,

(a) a veterinarian has examined the animal and has advised the inspector or agent in writing that the health and well-being of the animal necessitates its removal;

(b) the inspector or agent has inspected the animal and has reasonable grounds for believing that the animal is in distress and the owner or custodian of the animal is not present and cannot be found promptly; or

(c) an order respecting the animal has been made under section 13 and the order has not been complied with. R.S.O. 1990, c. O.36, s. 14 (1). ***

Time for compliance with order

13.(4)  An inspector or an agent of the Society who makes an order under subsection (1) shall specify in the order the time within which any action required by the order shall be performed. R.S.O. 1990, c. O.36, s. 13 (4).
13.(5)  Every person who is served with an order under subsection (1) shall comply with the order in accordance with its terms until such time as it may be modified, confirmed or revoked and shall thereafter comply with the order as modified or confirmed. R.S.O. 1990, c. O.36, s. 13 (5); 2008, c. 16, s. 10 (2).
18.1 HYPERLINK "http://www.e-laws.gov.on.ca/html/statutes/french/elaws_statutes_90o36_f.htm" \l "s18p1s1"(1) Every person is guilty of an offence who,
(d) contravenes subsection 13 (5); ***
(e) contravenes or fails to comply with an order of the Board; or ***
(f) knowingly makes a false report to the Society in respect of an animal   being in distress. 2008, c. 16, s. 16.

I would also emphasize some quotes from the OSPCA website…
How to recognize animal cruelty
Look for these common signs of neglect or intentional cruelty witnessed by Ontario SPCA investigators:
 * Animals who are repeatedly left alone without food and water. Often they are chained up in a yard.
* Animals kept in dirty conditions including being forced to stand in their own urine and excrement

Neglect: Neglect is the failure to provide adequate water, food, shelter or necessary care. Examples of neglect include: starvation; dehydration; inadequate shelter; parasite infestations; failure to seek veterinary care when an animal is in need of medical attention; allowing a collar to grow into an animal's skin; confinement without adequate light, ventilation, space or in unsanitary conditions; and failure to trim hooves or nails resulting in excessive growth (e.g. hooves curling upwards). In some cases neglect is simply a result of the owner's ignorance, and can be rectified by law enforcement authorities, like the Ontario SPCA, educating the owner and issuing orders to improve the animal's living conditions. In more severe cases, circumstances may require the Ontario SPCA, or other law enforcement authorities, removing the animals immediately to provide urgent medical care.

Signs of neglect – Chief is repeatedly left alone for extended periods of time without food  and water and is kept in dirty conditions including being forced to stand in his own urine and excrement. Neglect: The failure to provide adequate water, food, shelter…– I feel these conditions are met repeatedly. Necessary care? – that is harder for me to judge at a distance – without looking at, palpating and smelling his feet; without doing a microscopic exam of his feces to determine parasite load; without doing a blood test to determine other vital parameters… And what about exercise…….. please….. it is necessary for a horse’s physical, mental and emotional well-being!

I feel the OSPCA has done enough in terms of trying to educate this owner – this is not a case of ignorance. And is she really complying with all the orders? There is the letter of the law which I feel gives the OSPCA more than enough back-up to seize Chief There is also the spirit of the law – let’s face it – this owner would appear to have no intention of fulfilling Chief’s basic needs. I could go further quoting from the Recommended Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Farm Animals: Horses – but I would end up quoting almost the entire code as Chief’s owner is non-compliant with both the spirit and the letter of this Code. The neighbours who have been reporting Chief’s neglect to the OSPCA are in fact doing their duty not only as caring members of the public but also as knowledgeable members of the horse industry themselves.

The ‘Code’ states…
1.1.2 People involved in the horse industry should be aware of the welfare of horses under their care or the care of others. This may involve reporting cases of cruelty or neglect to the proper authorities, who have the authority to lay charges under federal and provincial regulations.

So… Ward, I ask you and your peers at the OSPCA to revisit Chief’s case yet again and put yourself in Chief’s ‘shoes’ – ask yourselves if you can in all good conscience allow this to continue – do you really want to wait until Old Man Winter wreaks his havoc and takes Chief’s situation from bad to worse? I applaud the good work the OSPCA has done in the past. Please don’t drop the ball now.
Dr. F. Patricia Gaviller, D.V.M., B.Sc.


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