Written by: Heather Clemenceau
Bad things sometimes happen to good people. In particular, people loaning horses out for therapy programs would never imagine stealing a horse so it’s incomprehensible if it happens to them. It may seem obvious to us that someone who sells or gives away your horse without your permission has essentially stolen him or her, it’s generally considered a civil matter, quite unlike what happens when someone cuts your fence and steals your horse directly off your property. In contrast, a civil matter is considered a dispute between two parties – if the police decide your case is civil, they will generally decline to treat it as a crime. Durham police have assigned a detective to the case of at least one of the two missing Ontario horses, Sargon and Apollo. Since the same parties are allegedly involved in the disappearance of more than one horse, perhaps the police have taken the view that an investigation needs to be undertaken to satisfy public interests?
WHO IS LIABLE WHEN LOANED HORSES ARE NOT RETURNED TO THEIR OWNERS ON DEMAND?
Leasing or free board arrangements permit a horse owner who loves their horse, but cannot keep him or hasn’t time to ride him – to lend him to a rider that can maintain him while the owner still has control. “Sent out for training” is a common excuse given when horses disappear from the farms where they have been placed. The chain of custody for many missing horses often cannot be more opaque, with horses changing hands several times without parties to these transactions necessarily being unaware of the status of the missing horse. This is why it’s a good practice to check all horses out online when you are considering buying or adopting.
The RCMP website informs us that the police will only investigate alleged fraud under certain circumstances:
“Major fraud within the Commercial Crime Program mandate can be defined as fraud cases of provincial, national or international significance (having due regard for contractual obligations with the provinces) in which one or more of the following elements are present (Corporate Fraud, credit fraud, investment fraud, securities fraud, mass marketing fraud):
- one or more of the RCMP strategic priorities (i.e. Organized Crime)
- substantial value or financial losses
- substantial impact on victims
- high degree of criminal sophistication
- requirement for special investigative expertise
- municipal, provincial, or federal governments as victim
- satisfying public or national interest”
There’s an old saying that bears repeating – “you will never meet a con-man you don’t like.” While a lease agreement won’t prevent a horse from disappearing if someone has the intent, a written agreement may be a deterrent against someone who impulsively decides to help themselves after identifying a target. If someone won’t agree to a contract in writing, walk away.
TIME MARCHES ON QUICKLY WHEN HORSES GO MISSING…
You wonder what is happening to the horse… Is he or she OK; is someone hurting them? What is the horse thinking about where he or she now is? It doesn’t matter if you are pro or anti-slaughter – both sides know that when a horse is taken from you all you can do is think of ways to bring your horse home.
The heartbreak of owners Kim Wilson and Kayla Whatling is reminiscent of that experienced by American Vicky Johnson, who has invested years into her own personal search for her missing and much loved mares Suzy and Echo, who were apparently sold to a slaughter horse buyer after being promised a caring home. Almost everything told to Vicky about the whereabouts of her horses was a lie, but both had received phenylbutazone and other drugs and medications, prohibited from entering the food chain. No one was ever punished for this crime against Vicky and her horses either.
Unlike with the “traditional” farm animals, there is truly no verification system in place to ensure that horses who do go to slaughter are sent there by those with rightful legal ownership. Horses sold to slaughterhouses or kill buyers without the owner’s knowledge or permission are sold with Equine Information Documents (EIDs) that were fabricated during the last leg of the horses’ journey to the plant, often by someone who has owned the horse for a few days or weeks if that. Such individuals have no basis to make any claim that the horse has not received any prohibited substances. Saying you don’t remember whether you shipped a horse or that “many horses look the same” is not an excuse. In fact, since many horses do look similar this is further testament to the fact that the EIDs do not sufficiently identify them or differentiate between them with any degree of certainty.
Here are scans of the Toronto Sun articles on the missing horses Sargon and Apollo – these articles from the newspaper contain additional information written by The Sun’s crime reporter Chris Doucette, which was not provided in the online versions. With these articles, Mr. Doucette joins the ranks of investigative journalists Mary Ormsby and Dale Brazao of the Toronto Star in addressing the profound shortcomings of the horsemeat trade in Canada.
In the past the Toronto Sun has featured various articles about “bad boy culinists” who promoted the eating of horsemeat in their restaurants, so this series of articles is definitely a welcome divergence. [I hope a few foodies and restaurateurs serving horsemeat in Toronto see these articles as well…]
[Click on each article to embiggen to read]