Written by: Heather Clemenceau
Live animal markets are notorious for withstanding humane pressure. This is due to the fact that both the public and regulatory agencies consistently see the often inhumane treatment of food animals as separate and distinct from pet animals. While few people would hesitate to contact the police if they saw a dog locked in a hot car, fowl and rabbits are put into the trunks of cars in 40+ weather every weekend at the Stouffville Livestock Market.
One small mercy is that the summer is almost over now and the hottest days for animals are mostly behind us. But that doesn’t mean that any government agency was able to seriously step up and take action for the birds and animals of the Market. At a time when SPCAs are justifiably reminding us that we need to take precautions to keep our pet animals cool by not leaving them unattended in cars, the helpless food animals (chickens, ducks, turkeys, exotic birds, other fowl and rabbits) at the Market are still being put into the stifling, unventilated trunks of cars and driven an unknown distance to their uncertain fates. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, high temperature, humidity and poor ventilation create an extremely dangerous environment in a vehicle trunk.
This veterinarian sits in a parked car to test the temperature that a pet would experience.
While the trunk is not exposed to direct sunlight, it will still be unbearably hot for a confined animal – on a 95 degree day, the trunk may be 120 degrees. It will certainly be hotter than the passenger compartment which at least has ventilation when the windows are down, if not air-conditioning.
While people in other cities are arrested when caught putting animals in the trunks of cars, York Region Police claim to be unaware of any criminal code violations as they pertain to putting ANY species of animal in the trunk of a car on an oppressively hot day. I know this because myself and others have spoken to them directly about the animals at the market and Criminal Code legislation. The fact is, when the OSPCA is closed outside of business hours, automated messages and instructions on their websites instruct us to call the York Region Police during off hours. The OSPCA has given the market instructions to provide all animals with water but most of the market vendors and management are either unwilling or incapable (probably both) of following this directive. Even when we have seen water provided (only on the day of a protest by activists) only the animals on display have been offered water. Animals kept in confined in plastic containers or on trailers are not offered water unless they are moved to a display cage.
Why do people look the other way when they see farm animals stuffed into the trunk of a car? They would almost certainly object if they saw you lock your dog in the trunk, especially on any of the hot July or August days in York Region. And what kind of person just won’t be bothered to provide water for their animals, especially when told by a government agency to do so? All farm animals can and do suffer from heat stress – signs are panting, increased salivation, drooling or foaming, increased respiration or laboured breathing, lethargy, or even unconsciousness.
We brought printouts from the “Health of Animals” Regulations – Livestock Handling, Transport, Segregation… from the Justice Laws website of the Government of Canada to our protests. it should be obvious that these regulations are sufficient to respond to the circumstances at the Market, where animals suffer from both the extremes of hot and cold:
141. (1) Subject to this section, no person shall load on any railway car, motor vehicle, aircraft or vessel and no carrier shall transport animals of different species or of substantially different weight or age unless those animals are segregated.
143. (1) No person shall transport or cause to be transported any animal in a railway car, motor vehicle, aircraft, vessel, crate or container if injury or undue suffering is likely to be caused to the animal by reason of
(a) inadequate construction of the railway car, motor vehicle, aircraft, vessel, container or any part thereof;
(b) insecure fittings, the presence of bolt-heads, angles or other projections;
(c) the fittings or other parts of the railway car, motor vehicle, aircraft, vessel or container being inadequately padded, fenced off or otherwise obstructed;
(d) undue exposure to the weather; or
(e) inadequate ventilation.
And from the Criminal Code of Canada:
Section 446 of the Criminal Code sets out the offence of causing damage or injury to animals and birds. Everyone who by:
…wilful neglect causes damage to animals or birds that are being conveyed or everyone who is the owner or has custody or control of an animal or bird wilfully neglects or fails to provide suitable and adequate food water, shelter and care, is guilty of an offence.
A person convicted of this offence is liable to imprisonment for not more than two years if the prosecution proceeds by way of indictment. If convicted of an offence where the Crown proceeds by way of summary conviction, the person faces a maximum punishment of a fine not exceeding $5,000 or six months in jail or both.
Section 446(3) states that:
…evidence that a person failed to exercise reasonable care or supervision of an animal or bird and thereby caused injury or damage to it, is, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, proof that the injury or damage was caused by “wilful neglect”.
In our opinion, the livestock market cannot simultaneously operate and meet all of these conditions.
According to the group Canadians For the Ethical Treatment of Farm Animals:”
“To minimize risks of heat stress, farm animals should only be transported during the cooler hours of the day. Space per animal inside transport trucks should be increased by reducing stocking densities to ensure proper air flow between animals and, in the case of pigs, to allow them to lie down. Trucks should be tarped and well ventilated. Water should be provided regularly on long journeys.
Canadian transport regulations, the Health of Animals Act, Part XII, Sections 143, (1)(d) and (e) state that “No person shall transport or cause to be transported any animal in a railway car, motor vehicle, aircraft, vessel, crate or container if injury or undue suffering is likely to be caused to the animal by reason of undue exposure to the weather or inadequate ventilation.” Yet, in Canada, farm animals are routinely transported during mid-day intense heat in overcrowded, un-tarped trailers, with no forced ventilation or water, as documented by CETFA inspectors.
Even when outside temperatures are not extreme, temperatures inside a trailer can rise dramatically if it is slowed by construction, stuck in traffic or otherwise forced to sit stationary, such as during unloading or at border crossings, where no dedicated lanes exist for livestock trailers (see case documented by CETFA here). Moreover, the amount of water vapor in the air (humidity) can lower the air temperature that farm animals can withstand without becoming heat stressed. For instance, research indicates that temperatures over only 23oC (73oF) can cause stress to cattle when combined with high humidity. Various combinations of heat and humidity, along with transport conditions, thus have the potential to negatively impact farm animals and induce heat stress during the summer months.
We ask that the readers of this blog post take action when it becomes apparent that farm animals are being transported in inappropriate conditions and suffering from heat stress – please contact the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), the government body responsible for the enforcement of farm animal transport regulations, to report your concerns. Provide details of your observations (location, time of the day, name of the transport company, and D.O.T number printed on the rig, as well as the species transported and the signs of heat stress you observe).
Remind the CFIA that livestock haulers are legally required to take reasonable steps to protect farm animals from severe weather and prevent unnecessary suffering, and urge them to enforce the regulations as they are mandated to do. Also, contact the trucking company involved and email us details of the incident.
Many dogs in heat stress situations have been helped through public involvement. As more and more people are becoming concerned about farm animals, public involvement will also be instrumental in improving the welfare of farm animals during extreme weather conditions.”
Please reach out to all regulatory groups in the following manner:
Canadian Food Inspection Agency:
You can contact the CFIA at 1-800-442-2342 or through your local CFIA office (found in the blue pages of your telephone directory).
174 Stone Rd W
The Ontario SPCA operates on a complaints basis. This means that you can help animals by being aware of at-risk animals in your community and by reporting cases of suspected animal cruelty to your nearest Ontario SPCA Community, police, Crime Stoppers or police.
1-888-ONT-SPCA (668-7722) ext. 327 or email firstname.lastname@example.org, or contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477), your local Ontario SPCA Branch, affiliated Humane Society or police.
York Region Police:
Toll Free Number 1-866-8POLICE or 1-866-876-5423 (non-emergencies only)
Address all correspondence to:
York Regional Police
17250 Yonge Street
Newmarket, Ontario Canada
Email: email@example.com (This email is monitored during business hours and is for non-emergencies only)