After several weeks of investigation and multiple visits, 129 cattle kept in “deplorable” conditions were seized from a Cawston rancher.
Two different trips by the SPCA were required to gather all of the cattle, with 95 seized on Jan. 18 and the remaining 34 seized on Jan. 25. Numerous dead cattle were also found on the property.
Three of the cows were in such bad shape, being deemed in critical distress, that they were forced to be euthanized at the ranch according to Eileen Drever, senior officer, protection and stakeholder services for the BC SPCA.
The investigation into the animals’ situation began after a complaint was made to the BC SPCA in December. Multiple visits were made, and despite speaking with the rancher, no changes to the cattle’s living conditions were observed.
During one of the later visits, a veterinarian was brought along to check out the animals and recommended further action at the property.
Some of the animals were underfed, but the biggest issue was the environment where they were kept that led to the investigation and seizure.
“They were up to their knees in mud and manure in some places,” said Drever. “They had no shelter, some of the cattle had injured themselves as a result of inadequate fencing, it was just deplorable the way these cattle were being kept.”
Such seizures are uncommon, where livestock belonging to a farmer or rancher are involved.
“The fact of the matter is for farmers this is their livelihood,” said Drever. “Unfortunately we believe this individual would pick these animals up at the end of their life, fatten them up and then sell them off. These animals have given their all through out their life, and living in conditions like this is just absolutely horrific.”
Charges of animal cruelty, potentially under both the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act and the Canadian Criminal Code, will be recommended to Crown prosecutors. Depending on whether those charges are filed by the Crown, and the result of any resulting court case, the rancher could potentially see a ban on owning further livestock, a potential $75,000 fine and even potential prison time.
The investigation itself is still ongoing due to the scale of the seizure and the required documentation for any potential court case.
The evidence being gathered will also be needed in case the rancher files to dispute the seizure with the B.C. Farm Industry Review Board.
“It’s time-consuming because this is a very large number of animals,” said Drever.
Some of the cattle were suffering from other medical issues, including untreated eye infections, lameness, mastitis, overgrown hooves and diarrhea.
The seized animals have been moved to an undisclosed location and are recovering under the supervision of a veterinarian.
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