The drama began in April 2014, when the Montreal SPCA received a complaint alleging mistreatment of animals at the fur farm.
“We were able to visit the farm for the first time on May 8 with a search warrant obtained under the criminal code,” explained Montreal SPCA spokesperson Sophie Gaillard in an interview with Defender Radio. “What we saw was absolutely horrific.”
Criminal charges were recommended and the remainder of the investigation was handed off to the Ministry of Forests, Fauna and Parks (MFFP), as existing legislation for wildlife-in-captivity laid in their jurisdiction.
“There were a number of exchanges between the Montreal SPCA and the Ministry and they went on site in July,” Gaillard said. “We finally did a joint investigation with them on August 4. We brought in renowned wildlife experts and veterinarians and they found very serious violations of the legislation. Animals were severely dehydrated, emaciated, had fractures and untreated infections. The animals were, in short, in a critical state.
“Based on what we noticed between our May 8 and August 4 visits, the situation was getting worse and worse,” added Gaillard. “We were certain that after the joint visit the Ministry would realize how serious the situation was and seize the animals.”
The Montreal SPCA offered repeatedly to assist in practical and financial aspects of a seizure: veterinary costs, sanctuaries and hands-on expertise were all extended.
“What then became apparent was that [the Ministry] was not willing to remove the animals,” she said. “They have told us they are not planning on seizing the animals and their statements in the media in the past couple of weeks have been in line with that. They are saying the animals are doing ok, they’re working with the fur farmer, the fur farmer’s veterinarian, and everything is fine. But based on what our experts saw, it’s very hard to believe the animals are fine. These are all animals that required immediate hospitalization and costly vet care.”
Further to this shocking lack of action, it was discovered that the owner of the farm has a past conviction for criminal animal cruelty.
“We can’t really explain why the Ministry is refusing to step up and remove the animals,” said Gaillard. “What we decided to do, given their inaction, is write them a demand letter, which we sent last Friday [August 22, 2014]. We set out all the violations of the legislation, all the powers they have under that legislation to remove and seize the animals, and giving them a delay to act. Otherwise, we will look at what kind of legal action we can take to compel them to act.”
Hear more from Sophie Gaillard, Montreal SPCA spokesperson, in next week’s episode of Defender Radio.
The animals still need your help! Please continue to write your local and provincial representatives, as well as the Ministry of Forests, Fauna and Parks to demand they act to protect the animals. A sample letter and contact information – as well as more facts, photos and videos – can be found by clicking here.
Photo by Jo-Anne McArthur/Montreal SPCA