Farmers, SPCA build bridges at meeting

News Nov 22, 2006 Flamborough Review

Most people realize that farm animals aren't pets. But local farmers are being subjected to an increasing number of animal cruelty investigations, due to residents filing reports with the SPCA.

To address the concern, the Hamilton Wentworth Federation of Agriculture members of the Ontario Farm Animal Council invited the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA), and that group's Hamilton-Burlington branch to its latest directors' meeting.

Although HWFA president Rob Pasuta was disappointed by the turnout of roughly 20 local farmers, he felt the meeting was a good start to building a relationship between the two sides.

The HWFA held the meeting in response to growing calls to the SPCA to report animals in distress, who are either perfectly healthy, or are in treatment.

"Maybe they see a cow or a horse laying flat on the ground, and they approach the farmer or call to report that the animal is sick or that it's dead," said Pasuta. In reality, some cows and horses prefer to flake out, but those without a farming background may not realize that, he said.

These calls dispatch an investigator from the SPCA, who arrives to question the farmer, often with return visits.

"You see someone from the SPCA pull up, and it gets the farmer on the defensive," said Pasuta.

When investigators do arrive, they often come without an expert to assess the animal, charged Pasuta. The farm community feels a vet, who specializes in the animal in question should accompany representatives on any investigation.

That's the aim, according to Jim Sykes, President and CEO of the Hamilton-Burlington SPCA. Although SPCA personnel perform many investigations alone, and are trained to recognize signs of distress in large animals, an attempt is made to have an expert, either a large animal vet, or a member of a professional association, such as the Cattleman's Association, present to assess the animal's state of health. Through partnerships with organizations like the Ontario Farm Animal Council, the SPCA is working to build as many such relationships in the agricultural community as possible.

Not all calls are about healthy animals - sick or injured animals make up a bulk of the calls, admits Pasuta. Often, the neighbour or passer-by feels the animal is neglected because a vet hasn't been called. However, many farmers rarely hire a vet to address mild illnesses or injuries, he said. Instead, they rely on years, often generations of knowledge, to treat the animals themselves. These animals are often nursed back to health, with a quiet stall, and plenty of food, water and rest, without any need for professional help, he said. If for some reason an animal can't recover, it's put down.

"We care for our animals," said Pasuta, a hog farmer by trade. "They're our livelihood. We know them better than anyone."

But that isn't the real issue, according to Sykes.

"We know farmers treat their own animals. We know they put them down. We think that's fine. What isn't fine is when the farmer fails to put that animal down," he said.

He recounted one story of a farmer, whose horse died of starvation over winter. "The neighbours knew it and the farmer knew it," he said. "But nothing was done."

He felt several farmers at the meeting misunderstood the role and intentions of the SPCA, so he was glad to be able to address their concerns.

"We're a middle of the road animal welfare agency," he said. "Animal rights people may say no-one should eat beef or wear leather shoes. We understand that animals are used for work on farms or raised to be eaten. We just ask that when they're slaughtered, it be done humanely, and that they be raised humanely."

The SPCA has the same authority as the police over animal welfare matters- they can enter property and lay criminal charges under the Criminal Code. By law, the SPCA is required to respond to every call, even if they're confident the animal is healthy and cared for, he said. That can become inconvenient for some farmers - particularly those who live near populated areas. One horse farm in particular on Hamilton Mountain is near a busy intersection, passed by countless urban residents every day, which results in numerous unfounded calls each year.

"We've developed a good relationship with the farmer," said Sykes.

Non-farming residents moving to rural regions are a growing concern for the agricultural community - some former city dwellers don't understand or agree with common farm practices. But with calls mounting up, the feeling is mutual.

"One of the things we were joking about is the fact that the farmers get nervous every time someone new moves into the area. We feel the same way," said Sykes.

However, not all the calls are unnecessary. Roughly 50 per cent are warranted, he said. "But most of those just require education." Most farmers are well meaning, he added. However, financial strains put a burden on the farmer, and animals may suffer for that.

"They'll say they know they need to feed the cow, but they just can't afford it," he said. It's a common situation, but not one that can't be solved. There are provincial programs for farmers in that situation, or other courses that can be followed, he said. "Doing nothing is not an option."

When a farmer refuses to acknowledge that an animal is sick or injured, red flags go up. The organization will then bring in a large animal vet or a member of a professional organization related to the animal, to assess the situation. It's rare that an animal needs to be removed, but the SPCA holds that authority.

"If they aren't willing to take care of the animal, we'll take care of it and charge it back to the farmer," said Sykes. "Our concern is with the animal."

Farmers, SPCA build bridges at meeting

News Nov 22, 2006 Flamborough Review

Most people realize that farm animals aren't pets. But local farmers are being subjected to an increasing number of animal cruelty investigations, due to residents filing reports with the SPCA.

To address the concern, the Hamilton Wentworth Federation of Agriculture members of the Ontario Farm Animal Council invited the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA), and that group's Hamilton-Burlington branch to its latest directors' meeting.

Although HWFA president Rob Pasuta was disappointed by the turnout of roughly 20 local farmers, he felt the meeting was a good start to building a relationship between the two sides.

The HWFA held the meeting in response to growing calls to the SPCA to report animals in distress, who are either perfectly healthy, or are in treatment.

"Maybe they see a cow or a horse laying flat on the ground, and they approach the farmer or call to report that the animal is sick or that it's dead," said Pasuta. In reality, some cows and horses prefer to flake out, but those without a farming background may not realize that, he said.

These calls dispatch an investigator from the SPCA, who arrives to question the farmer, often with return visits.

"You see someone from the SPCA pull up, and it gets the farmer on the defensive," said Pasuta.

When investigators do arrive, they often come without an expert to assess the animal, charged Pasuta. The farm community feels a vet, who specializes in the animal in question should accompany representatives on any investigation.

That's the aim, according to Jim Sykes, President and CEO of the Hamilton-Burlington SPCA. Although SPCA personnel perform many investigations alone, and are trained to recognize signs of distress in large animals, an attempt is made to have an expert, either a large animal vet, or a member of a professional association, such as the Cattleman's Association, present to assess the animal's state of health. Through partnerships with organizations like the Ontario Farm Animal Council, the SPCA is working to build as many such relationships in the agricultural community as possible.

Not all calls are about healthy animals - sick or injured animals make up a bulk of the calls, admits Pasuta. Often, the neighbour or passer-by feels the animal is neglected because a vet hasn't been called. However, many farmers rarely hire a vet to address mild illnesses or injuries, he said. Instead, they rely on years, often generations of knowledge, to treat the animals themselves. These animals are often nursed back to health, with a quiet stall, and plenty of food, water and rest, without any need for professional help, he said. If for some reason an animal can't recover, it's put down.

"We care for our animals," said Pasuta, a hog farmer by trade. "They're our livelihood. We know them better than anyone."

But that isn't the real issue, according to Sykes.

"We know farmers treat their own animals. We know they put them down. We think that's fine. What isn't fine is when the farmer fails to put that animal down," he said.

He recounted one story of a farmer, whose horse died of starvation over winter. "The neighbours knew it and the farmer knew it," he said. "But nothing was done."

He felt several farmers at the meeting misunderstood the role and intentions of the SPCA, so he was glad to be able to address their concerns.

"We're a middle of the road animal welfare agency," he said. "Animal rights people may say no-one should eat beef or wear leather shoes. We understand that animals are used for work on farms or raised to be eaten. We just ask that when they're slaughtered, it be done humanely, and that they be raised humanely."

The SPCA has the same authority as the police over animal welfare matters- they can enter property and lay criminal charges under the Criminal Code. By law, the SPCA is required to respond to every call, even if they're confident the animal is healthy and cared for, he said. That can become inconvenient for some farmers - particularly those who live near populated areas. One horse farm in particular on Hamilton Mountain is near a busy intersection, passed by countless urban residents every day, which results in numerous unfounded calls each year.

"We've developed a good relationship with the farmer," said Sykes.

Non-farming residents moving to rural regions are a growing concern for the agricultural community - some former city dwellers don't understand or agree with common farm practices. But with calls mounting up, the feeling is mutual.

"One of the things we were joking about is the fact that the farmers get nervous every time someone new moves into the area. We feel the same way," said Sykes.

However, not all the calls are unnecessary. Roughly 50 per cent are warranted, he said. "But most of those just require education." Most farmers are well meaning, he added. However, financial strains put a burden on the farmer, and animals may suffer for that.

"They'll say they know they need to feed the cow, but they just can't afford it," he said. It's a common situation, but not one that can't be solved. There are provincial programs for farmers in that situation, or other courses that can be followed, he said. "Doing nothing is not an option."

When a farmer refuses to acknowledge that an animal is sick or injured, red flags go up. The organization will then bring in a large animal vet or a member of a professional organization related to the animal, to assess the situation. It's rare that an animal needs to be removed, but the SPCA holds that authority.

"If they aren't willing to take care of the animal, we'll take care of it and charge it back to the farmer," said Sykes. "Our concern is with the animal."

Farmers, SPCA build bridges at meeting

News Nov 22, 2006 Flamborough Review

Most people realize that farm animals aren't pets. But local farmers are being subjected to an increasing number of animal cruelty investigations, due to residents filing reports with the SPCA.

To address the concern, the Hamilton Wentworth Federation of Agriculture members of the Ontario Farm Animal Council invited the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA), and that group's Hamilton-Burlington branch to its latest directors' meeting.

Although HWFA president Rob Pasuta was disappointed by the turnout of roughly 20 local farmers, he felt the meeting was a good start to building a relationship between the two sides.

The HWFA held the meeting in response to growing calls to the SPCA to report animals in distress, who are either perfectly healthy, or are in treatment.

"Maybe they see a cow or a horse laying flat on the ground, and they approach the farmer or call to report that the animal is sick or that it's dead," said Pasuta. In reality, some cows and horses prefer to flake out, but those without a farming background may not realize that, he said.

These calls dispatch an investigator from the SPCA, who arrives to question the farmer, often with return visits.

"You see someone from the SPCA pull up, and it gets the farmer on the defensive," said Pasuta.

When investigators do arrive, they often come without an expert to assess the animal, charged Pasuta. The farm community feels a vet, who specializes in the animal in question should accompany representatives on any investigation.

That's the aim, according to Jim Sykes, President and CEO of the Hamilton-Burlington SPCA. Although SPCA personnel perform many investigations alone, and are trained to recognize signs of distress in large animals, an attempt is made to have an expert, either a large animal vet, or a member of a professional association, such as the Cattleman's Association, present to assess the animal's state of health. Through partnerships with organizations like the Ontario Farm Animal Council, the SPCA is working to build as many such relationships in the agricultural community as possible.

Not all calls are about healthy animals - sick or injured animals make up a bulk of the calls, admits Pasuta. Often, the neighbour or passer-by feels the animal is neglected because a vet hasn't been called. However, many farmers rarely hire a vet to address mild illnesses or injuries, he said. Instead, they rely on years, often generations of knowledge, to treat the animals themselves. These animals are often nursed back to health, with a quiet stall, and plenty of food, water and rest, without any need for professional help, he said. If for some reason an animal can't recover, it's put down.

"We care for our animals," said Pasuta, a hog farmer by trade. "They're our livelihood. We know them better than anyone."

But that isn't the real issue, according to Sykes.

"We know farmers treat their own animals. We know they put them down. We think that's fine. What isn't fine is when the farmer fails to put that animal down," he said.

He recounted one story of a farmer, whose horse died of starvation over winter. "The neighbours knew it and the farmer knew it," he said. "But nothing was done."

He felt several farmers at the meeting misunderstood the role and intentions of the SPCA, so he was glad to be able to address their concerns.

"We're a middle of the road animal welfare agency," he said. "Animal rights people may say no-one should eat beef or wear leather shoes. We understand that animals are used for work on farms or raised to be eaten. We just ask that when they're slaughtered, it be done humanely, and that they be raised humanely."

The SPCA has the same authority as the police over animal welfare matters- they can enter property and lay criminal charges under the Criminal Code. By law, the SPCA is required to respond to every call, even if they're confident the animal is healthy and cared for, he said. That can become inconvenient for some farmers - particularly those who live near populated areas. One horse farm in particular on Hamilton Mountain is near a busy intersection, passed by countless urban residents every day, which results in numerous unfounded calls each year.

"We've developed a good relationship with the farmer," said Sykes.

Non-farming residents moving to rural regions are a growing concern for the agricultural community - some former city dwellers don't understand or agree with common farm practices. But with calls mounting up, the feeling is mutual.

"One of the things we were joking about is the fact that the farmers get nervous every time someone new moves into the area. We feel the same way," said Sykes.

However, not all the calls are unnecessary. Roughly 50 per cent are warranted, he said. "But most of those just require education." Most farmers are well meaning, he added. However, financial strains put a burden on the farmer, and animals may suffer for that.

"They'll say they know they need to feed the cow, but they just can't afford it," he said. It's a common situation, but not one that can't be solved. There are provincial programs for farmers in that situation, or other courses that can be followed, he said. "Doing nothing is not an option."

When a farmer refuses to acknowledge that an animal is sick or injured, red flags go up. The organization will then bring in a large animal vet or a member of a professional organization related to the animal, to assess the situation. It's rare that an animal needs to be removed, but the SPCA holds that authority.

"If they aren't willing to take care of the animal, we'll take care of it and charge it back to the farmer," said Sykes. "Our concern is with the animal."