Author Archives: heatherclemenceau

About heatherclemenceau

Hopefully as I've grown older I've also grown wiser, but one thing I've definitely become cognizant of is the difference between making a living and making a life. Frequently outraged by some of life's cruelties, and respect diversity. But.....I don't suffer fools gladly, and occasionally, this does get me into some trouble! I have the distinction of being the world's worst golfer - no wait, I do believe that there is a gypsy in Moldavia who is a worse golfer than I. Nor am I much of a dancer - you won't see a booty-shakin' flygirl routine from me! I'm also not the kind of cook who can whip up a five-course meal on a radiator either! And I've never figured out how to get an orchid to bloom a second time. I love to discuss literature, science, philosophy, and sci-fi , or even why Seinfeld is funny on so many levels. Words move me. I'm very soft-hearted about most things, especially animals, but I have a stoicism about me that is sometimes interpreted incorrectly. I do have a definite edge and an often "retro-adolescent" sense of humour at times. I'm a big advocate of distributed computing projects to advance science. Check out http://boinc.berkeley.edu/ if you want to find out more. I'm an eclectic plant-based eater, and as such, it's a personal practice of mine to seduce innocent meat-eaters into cruising the (salad) bars at every opportunity. You would be powerless to resist. I was recently surprised to find that a computer algorithm concluded that I write like Dan Brown, which is funny because I didn't think Dan Brown could actually write. Check out your own style - http://iwl.me/ Oh, and I love impractical shoes and funky hats.

The Big Give

Standard

I hated my mom’s fur coat. A few months ago, it became mine.

Mom’s raccoon coat was, to her, a symbol of class and status. But for many more people, fur coats don’t represent either of these things.  After my mom passed-away in April, I found that being left the coat created something of a moral dilemma – I didn’t want to wear it, and both my aversion to waste and sentimental attachment to something belonging to my mom prevented me from throwing it away outright. We’re urged to recycle whatever we can, but hate the fashion-driven consumerism of cruelly derived animal fur coats, so we don’t want to create further demand by putting the coat back into the marketplace either. Although the deadly deed has long been a fait accompli, we can still try to make amends to the animals who lost their lives to become vanity pieces.  Until you inherit a fur coat that you don’t know what to do with, you don’t realize that it’s much more of a grave stone than a fashion statement.

Websites are replete with tips on how to recycle unwanted furs, including turning them into re-purposed teddy bears or donating them to wildlife rehabilitation centres. You would think that the answer to this conundrum is easily solved because it seems orphaned babies who have lost their mothers like to snuggle up to fur, according to some rescuers. The familiarity of fur likely plays a key role in the animals’ overall health and well-being, and may improve their chances of survival when they are eventually released back into the wild.

What was once brutally taken from them can now be used as a source of warmth and compassion. But despite the encouragement from most SPCAs and groups like the Humane Society, most rehabbers don’t actually want fur coats because they are difficult to clean. Even Born Free USA has updated its website to advise that it currently has “too much fur” to send to sanctuaries.  In addition, the coordination of the donation was off, because by the time I took possession of the coat in June, most rehabbing animal babies have grown and are ready to leave on their own, and there is little demand for fur scraps for warm nesting materials in the summer.

Procyon Wildlife rehabbers in Beeton, Ontario, who have more than 200 animals to take care of, from skunks, turtles, chipmunks, raccoons, fawns, and coyotes, agreed to take the coat off my hands.  Various people I exchanged conversations with promised they could cut it up in short-order and send me a few photos of the coat’s new beginnings as an enrichment item for rehabbing animals. A win-win for all!

~Epilogue~

Dear readers, I wish I could tell you what ultimately happened to this coat.  Despite the good intentions of a few people, I wasn’t able to determine if it was ever used as intended. I was really looking forward to seeing a few pics of it being used somehow!  But at this time, no one at Procyon seems to know where it is or what happened to it after I dropped it off.  I could have asked my husband or a friend to cut it up in smaller pieces in advance if it was too time-consuming for volunteers to manage.

I firmly believe that once you give away something, you have little right to complain about what does or doesn’t happen to it.  That said, philanthropic giving is about developing relationships.  If you can’t use the donation, no matter what it is, then communicate with the donor and explain that you can’t use the gift at this time, due to a lack of personnel, time, or whatever.  It’s always a good idea to use in-kind gifts in the way suggested, especially when they are intended not for people but animals, and that by not doing so could disappoint or alienate the donors of such gifts. They would not have donated to your organization if they didn’t have some interest what you do….

 

Advertisements

Questionable CTV Reporting on “Roxy the Goldendoodle” Prompts Harassment of Vet Clinic

Standard

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

The veterinary profession is often replete with occupational stress.  Research has suggested that people whose work involves making life-or-death decisions about suffering animals, experience higher levels of physical and psychological trauma, making them an at-risk population for post-traumatic stress.  Veterinarians, just like other healthcare professionals, also contend with compassion fatigue, defined as “the emotional burden that health care providers may experience because of overexposure to traumatic events that patients are experiencing.” These stressors are often compounded by the clinic’s own clients, who may exert unfair pressure for impossible levels of service, including at times, free or deeply-discounted pet care.  A 2008 U.K. study found veterinarians commit suicide at a rate of four times that of the general population and twice the rate of other medical doctors and dentists. One of the first mental health surveys of U.S. veterinarians, conducted in 2014, found one in six veterinarians may have considered suicide.

The recent story of Roxy, the goldendoodle who required emergency surgery for complications from a routine spay, was not some feel-good rescue effort that dog lovers engineered with the help of the media, against a “money-grubbing” pet clinic. It became a personal attack on veterinarians and vet technicians everywhere.

The Goodman family from Vaughan, Ont. recently praised a CTV reporter’s story that they claimed allowed them to get Roxy back after surrendering her to the Willowdale Animal Hospital when they couldn’t pay the $8,000 emergency surgery. To be sure, $8,000 is a lot of money, but the article that created a deluge of online hate and bad reviews for the clinic did not examine the possible reasons for such an estimate.  The public had zero information about the type of emergency care Roxy needed, yet enraged pet owners ran with the theory that the “big, bad” veterinary clinic was gouging her desperate owners. Spaying surgeries are usually routine but it is still a major surgery and as such, any complications can be serious, and may include:

  • Loose stitches
  • Incisional infection
  • Abscesses
  • Herniation
  • Sepsis
  • lacerated bladder or ureter
  • haemorrhage
  • Abdominal evisceration
  • Dehiscence of sutures
  • disseminated intravascular coagulation

All these possibilities can/may require:

  • IV fluids/colloids
  • Scans and radiographs
  • Blood transfusions
  • IV antibiotics
  • Pain control
  • Post-op lab work
  • Intubation/anaesthesia
  • Emergency clinic hospitalization of 24 hours or more
  • Sterile equipment

Clinics all have their own ways of breaking down these costs – they may have newer equipment and building rent may vary depending on where the clinic is located. An emergency clinic may also provide a fully stocked hospital that your regular veterinary clinic may not provide. Payment terms can be difficult to negotiate since you typically only see an emergency vet when you have an emergency, so you don’t have the same type of relationship as with your regular vet.  Because of this, many clinics may feel that it doesn’t make good business sense to give credit to people they don’t know. Consider also that the College of Veterinarians of Ontario publishes fee schedules and while each veterinary facility will determine their own fee schedule,  veterinarians cannot conspire to fix fees and it’s considered misconduct if a veterinarian charges fees that are excessive to what is normally charged.

Many people waded-into the online commentary about the CTV article, including this DVM who had some wise advice that was shared amongst nearly 3,000 people on Facebook:

“So there’s been a news story lighting up my social media today from CTV, about Roxy the goldendoodle. I don’t know all the details of the case, but I felt the need to weigh in to the folks at CTV who “broke” the story. For those who are interested, here is the email I sent them:

Hello, CTV news team.

I want to comment on a story you reported that has recently caught my attention, as well as the attention of many in my line of work. I am a veterinarian. I work in a small animal hospital north of Toronto.

My social media has been alive with conversation today about Roxy the goldendoodle. The first thing I want to bring to your attention is that this story, and others like it, are basically bullying. You heard me. Now hear me out.

Of course my heart goes out to this family. I’m sure it has been a very emotional ordeal. I am not privy to the details of the case, so I will speak here in relatively general terms.

It is always tragic and heart breaking when a family pet is facing a large vet bill. Whether the pet is experiencing complications, or a severe illness, or an injury, or whatever. It is painful and heart wrenching to have to sit down across from a person and have a very frank discussion with them about how sick or injured their pet is, and what it will take to try to heal them.

Here’s a piece of information that should not be a surprise to anyone. Medical care costs money. Sometimes, the medical care a patient needs costs a lot of money. We sometimes forget this, as Canadians, because we have the incredible privilege of seeking medical care whenever we need it, however minor or severe, and not have to sit down with the doctor beforehand and talk about what that care will cost. But OHIP doesn’t cover our furry (or feathered, or scaly) family members. And medical care costs money. It’s not a nice feeling, to have to have that conversation. Trust me, I know. In this particular case, likely because of social pressure and media attention ( #bullying ), this vet clinic opted in the end to do the work pro bono, and reunite this family with their dog. I am sure that made the dog, the family, and possibly even the veterinarian, very happy. But it doesn’t keep the lights on. It doesn’t pay the staff payroll. It doesn’t restock the shelves.

Will other pet owners, having seen this “feel-good” story now think that all they need to do is publicly shame their vet on news media/social media/etc, and they can get expensive medical care for free too?

Here’s a little fact you may or may not know; all vet hospitals in Canada, BY LAW, are owned by veterinarians. One must be a veterinarian to own a vet clinic. Most of us are small business owners. Why does it seem reasonable to so many people to ask for a line of credit from a small business owner? That’s what banks are for, what credit card companies are for, what credit unions are for. There is even a company called Pet Card that is specifically devoted to providing people with flexible payment plan options for veterinary bills. We don’t know if any of those options were mentioned to the family in this case, but I do think that most people are aware of the existence of these types of financial institutions, and a very simple and fast Google search could also have provided that information. And if the person in question does not qualify for credit from a large corporation whose job it is to provide credit, how can we ask a small business owner to take on the financial risk of providing them with credit?

If the option eventually offered in this case was to surrender the dog, I can only assume, as a veterinarian with 13 years of experience in general practice, that the vets were trying very hard to come up with some way that the end of this puppy’s story would not have to be euthanasia. That may be a tough pill to swallow, but there are many pets who end up being euthanized because there is simply no way that their people can afford whatever care it is that they need. This hospital was trying to find a way for the puppy to be treated, and survive, and hopefully then find a good home. Good on them. In return, they get bullied on national tv.

I can tell you,that in general practice, I see the whole human spectrum, from the very wealthy to the very poor, from the very caring to the very callous, from the very knowledgeable to those who know almost nothing about caring for animals. And we help them all. And, I can tell you that sometimes people are effusively grateful for my help, and sometimes people are downright abusive despite my help. I get accused regularly of being “only in it for the money”. Did you know that worldwide, veterinarians have now officially surpassed all the other health care professions in suicides? All too often, the challenges of either not being able to help, or being accused of being money grubbers when all we are trying to do is help, plays a role in many of those suicides. There is a movement called #notonemorevet. Look it up. Vets care. A lot.

Let me change tacks a little bit, and ask you, Pat Foran, will you come in to work for free? Will you, Ken Shaw and Michelle Dube? How about your camera operators, your producers, your executives, or the rest of the news team – will they come in to work for free? How about that family who so tragically almost lost their beloved pet – would they go in to work for free? Of course not. We all want to make a fair living, and there’s nothing shameful about that. As I mentioned before, medical care costs money. Shame on you, CTV, for bullying this vet clinic, just because they ask an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work. For bullying them into giving away that honest work for free.

If you would like to contact me to discuss this further, I am more than happy to participate in the conversation.”

Aimee Gilbert, DVM

 

Emergency clinics are usually staffed with veterinarians and vet technicians who must perform literal miracles on desperately sick pets, 365 days of the year.  You should expect that off hours veterinary fees are typically higher than daytime fees. This is due to the increased costs of providing a dedicated staff who work at nights, on weekends and holidays, so clearly the service will not be cheap. And neither is pet ownership cheap in general – dog ownership over the lifetime of the pet is estimated by OVMA to be in excess of $28,000.

But in an increasingly cynical society, pet parents are committing emotionally-embroiled bribery when they blame clinics for not providing free or discounted services when clients cannot pay or don’t want to prioritize payment.  As we’ve seen with this particular example, dog lovers jumped on the social media band wagon in a campaign of harassment and psychological abuse, monopolizing the resources of the clinic and possibly jeopardizing other animal patients. Social media attacks on clinics are so common that both the AVMA and the CVMA publish guidelines for reputation management and cyberbullying.

“If you really loved animals, you’d do it for free.”

In the end, the clinic appeared to treat the whole unfortunate event with grace and aplomb, issuing a statement to CTV Toronto that “emergency surgery was performed, at no cost. We have been diligently and ethically working with Natasha Goodman… We are pleased to confirm that Roxy has been reunited with her family.”  We presume that Roxy,  who is blissfully unaware of the controversy, is on her way to a full recovery.  But few small businesses can afford to offer much pro-bono work.  The clinic in this case appears to have gotten nothing in return for their troubles, not even an offer of partial payment that I could find (it would be great if Roxy’s people offered to cover at least some of the cost).  Pet owners need to understand that expecting to be paid for your services is not the same thing as “being in it for the money.”  You should no more expect your veterinarian to offer free services than you would your general practitioner.  Your personal physician didn’t enter the field of medicine because he or she “loves” you either.

Crowdsourcing, discounted surgical procedures, and pet food banks are all options, and there are a number of resources for low-income pet owners in the province of Ontario,  but pet owners of more substantial means may have to give up a vacation or two in order to afford the care a pet needs.  That next trip to Switzerland, Mount Kilimanjaro or Italy may have to wait for another year or for your next Corporate bonus….

 

 

Horsemeat Adulterated Sausages – Where Deception and Detection Intersect

Standard
Horsemeat Adulterated Sausages – Where Deception and Detection Intersect

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

A few months ago the CFIA funded a study of sausages that determined that 20 per cent of samples from grocery stores across Canada contained meats that weren’t on the label. The study, which was prompted by the European horsemeat scandal of 2013, was conducted by researchers at the University of Guelph, and DNA profiling was used to detect the species found in sausages that were labelled as containing just one ingredient – beef, pork, chicken or turkey.

Seven of 27 beef sausages examined in the study were found to contain pork. One of 38 supposedly pure pork sausages contained horse meat. Of 20 chicken sausages, four also contained turkey and one also contained beef.  The contamination isn’t exactly surprising (if processing  facilities have horsemeat, they need to find a way to get rid of it).  The CFIA investigated all cases of mis-labelled sausages and in the case of the chicken labelled as turkey, it was able to find issues with a manufacturer’s “traceability program” – incoming meat and production records were not properly maintained. The incident concerning horsemeat was not investigated because the company responsible voluntarily ceased operations (the way all slaughter operations should end).  Explanations for the adulteration of the remaining sausages appears to be more complex.

There are usually two kinds of food adulteration – where the butcher/supplier deliberately or accidentally adds another species, or simple cross-contamination – meat can also come into contact with knives or preparation materials.  Since the CFIA reported that the contamination was not found at trace amounts, we should assume the adulteration occurred as a result of either outright fraud or incompetency in handling/labelling meats.

My initial ATI to the CFIA requested the brand/store names where the sausages had been purchased – this is, IMO, one of the most important details that was never published in any report.  The CFIA complied with the paperwork included below, but the open-records request remained only partially complete.  After much follow-up,  the CFIA indicated that they were prepared to release this information,  but their attempt to disclose identifying details about the sausage supply chain was met was met with a refusal to comply by the named companies.  According to the provisions of the Access to Information Act (ATIA), respondents are asked to agree to disclose information to the requesters in an open-records request.  So an application was made for judicial review in order to attempt to remedy this refusal to disclose.  Judicial review of an administrative action is only available for decisions made by a governmental or quasi-governmental authority. The practice is meant to ensure that powers delegated by government to boards and tribunals are not abused, and offers legal recourse when that power is misused, or the law is misapplied. Judicial review is meant to be a last resort for those seeking to redress a decision of an administrative decision maker.

It’s alarming that the identity of the companies who failed to protect consumers from this food adulteration may end up being concealed from the public, depending on the findings of the judicial review.  Food adulteration, whether unintentional or fraudulent, is not victimless.  What is at stake is the entire food economy.  Consumer trust is being lost – the industry also hurts itself since it’s unlikely that consumers will pay more for a product they suspect may be adulterated.  The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) recommends that voluntary audit and improved detection programs are a deterrence to food transparency issues. Suppliers are encouraged to facilitate appropriate testing procedures and retailers to partner with academia to forecast risk, and with suppliers and manufacturers to verify authenticity of the products they receive.  It sure sounds like the retailers who distributed these sausages have no testing/audit programs of their own to verify that the labelling accurately represents the contents of the products they purchase!

We know that despite horsemeat being consumed in Quebec and a few restaurants throughout the country, the only way to sell large quantities of it is to disguise it as something else.  Clearly the demand for horsemeat is not there in the marketplace, otherwise it could be sold as-is.

Let’s hope that the protection of brand integrity does not supercede the rights of consumers.

 

 

The 10 Commandments of Riding for Roy Moore

Standard

When do the other 3 horsemen arrive?

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

A few days ago, alleged pedophile, bigot, and misogynist Roy Moore rode his horse, Sassy, to the Alabama Senate polling station and got roasted extra crispy by the internets for his poor riding ability and silly Gunsmoke cosplay.

The “10 Commandments” judge loves traditions from the 1800s, including slavery and child brides, so it’s fitting that we present him with a set of commandments that he should adhere to when considering torturing riding horses in future.

Roy Moore’s 10 Commandments for Riding Horses

  1. Thou shalt not sit like a lumpy sack of potatoes despite having a gaited

    All hat, no cattle

    horse. When you can barely stay level on a TWH, that is a clear sign you should not be anywhere near a horse.

  2. Thou shalt not jerk and flail your arms about like you’re trying to pull-start a gas lawnmower. Curses on whoever set you up with a long shanked bit that isn’t even positioned correctly. I don’t like them but I will say that leverage bits belong in educated hands only.  Period.
  3. Thou shalt not let the daylight show between your ass and the saddle
  4. Thou shalt not ride with such a heavy hand that you make your horses ewe-necked – both horses shown with Moore have prominently developed muscling on the underside of the neck. Both horses show how their physicality has changed with poor riding and hollowed out backs.
  5. Thou shalt not inflict one’s ignorance and poorly fitting tack on any animal.  Always use a saddle pad under the saddle.
  6. Thou shall shorten thy reins and stirrups and get your legs under you.
  7. Thou shall take lessons if for no other reason than the sake of the poor horse.  Moore doesn’t even ride as capably as someone at a trail ride who is riding for the first time, so he needs to give some thought into strapping on a helmet.

    At least he kept his shirt on….

  8. Thou shalt not use horses as props and photo ops when your riding is so poor that you have no business being up there.  Moore didn’t care that Sassy might have been spooked by photographers and as she was nervous,  he had not the skill set to calm her and instead kicked and jerked on her sensitive mouth. His riding clearly showed that he does not care about the pain of any other creature.
  9. Thou shalt not dress as one of the Village People.
  10. And lastly, If you’re an accused pedo,  thou shalt not name your horse after a now-defunct magazine aimed at teenage girls #Sassy.

Moore’s appearance at the voting station was not exactly my idea of a tableau of vintage America.  Is anyone surprised that he has heavy hands?  Both horses look uncomfortable with Moore touching them.  And Moore riding a filly that can’t get away from him is so totally on-brand, isn’t it?

Another ewe-necked horse by Roy Moore, which is hardly surprising considering the vise-like grip he has on all his mounts.  Here’s he’s almost as lifelike as Bernie in “Weekend at Bernie’s in a classic “chair seat” stance.

Everything about his riding demonstrates a lack of understanding about how one’s body impacts the horse – which appears to mirror his lack of understanding of how his actions impact the lives of others. His horses are merely objects fulfilling their purpose. As with both the law and religion, Moore appears incapable of considering anything beyond manipulating objects to his benefit. Roy Moore is no more qualified for the US Senate than he is to ride a horse.

Next time take the car pardner….

Someone please take these horses away from this man!

Conservative MP Michelle Rempel Seeks To Close Bestiality Loophole After Liberals Drop The Ball

Standard

Written by: Heather Clemenceau

Finally, someone is proposing to fix the loophole in the Canadian criminal code that allows bestiality.

After Nathaniel Erskine-Smith’s private member’s  Bill C-246 — the Modernizing Animal Protections Act — was defeated in second reading by a vote of 198 to 84, it was left to Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould  to do something to improve animal protection laws. Despite it being a Liberal bill that would have seen the first substantive change to Canada’s animal protection laws in over 100 years, a total of 177 Liberal MPs voted against it.  Only two Conservative MP’s voted in favour of it, and one of them was the MP for Calgary Nose Hill,  Michelle Rempel.

Rempel has now introduced her own private members Bill C-388An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (bestiality).  While it’s not as comprehensive as Erskine-Smith’s bill, it is intended to respond to the 2016 R. v. D.L.W. Supreme Court ruling that  upheld the acquittal of a British Columbia man who was charged with bestiality after compelling the family dog to sexually abuse his 16-year-old stepdaughter.

MP Rempel issued the following statement after presenting her private members bill (full text available here):

“The Supreme Court has clearly indicated that this is a legal grey area that can only be corrected by legislation. I am disturbed that the government has not yet corrected this glaring void in our criminal code.

This is a non-partisan issue that is clearly needed to keep both humans and animals safe. The current law is reflective of an archaic understanding of sex, and the change that I am seeking to make with my bill both reflects the language of the Supreme Court ruling, and frankly is a no-brainer. The Liberals should have introduced legislation to correct this issue immediately after the ruling. Nearly a year and a half later, I hope that tabling this bill will encourage the Prime Minister to stop dragging his feet and take action to make this common sense change.”

Animal welfare and rights have long been considered a fairly liberal and left-wing issue.  The current Liberal government has not, however, supported its party’s own bill; the ramifications of this disappointing result were felt by animal rights/welfare advocates across Canada.  It left little doubt that we have our work cut out for us.

Call To Action!

Please ask your MP to support this bill – Find your Member of Parliament here.  You can also offer support to Rempel’s Facebook thread on the bill here.

 

 

 

Short Hills Deer Hunt – Remains Of The Day

Standard
Short Hills Deer Hunt – Remains Of The Day

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

Photos: Short Hills Wildlife Alliance

I find that there is a bizarre disconnect between the public face that hunters would like to present and the disturbing findings observed after the hunt is over. Nothing calls attention to this incongruity like a wounded animal and discarded remains scattered throughout the park. I’m not sure what enrages me the most, the MNRF’s ongoing assault on wildlife or the flagrant hypocrisy of doing it under the cover of something called either a “herd reduction” or “traditional hunt.”  The hunters and their supporters continue to make broad pronouncements and allegations about anti-hunt demonstrators when in fact all people should be free to express themselves without fear of being labelled in a derogatory fashion.  The disconnects seen in much of the reasoning by the pro-hunt cause are so enormous that it feels like climbing Mt. Everest without oxygen.  (Please note that in order to depict the visceral nature of the hunt,  photos included herein are GRAPHIC and DISTURBING).

With the 2017 hunt now concluded, the MNRF has tallied up the kill numbers for this year.  On at least one day their tally does not even agree with number counted by the police, so how transparent or honest/accurate is the reporting?  These numbers do not include the 4 deer that were found either abandoned or wounded outside the hunt zone and found dressed on private property, awaiting delivery by the MNRF to the staging area.  This year, vehicles with license plates from Quebec and even Florida were observed entering the park to kill deer.  I guess we should assume that there are no raw forests in either Quebec or Florida that can host deer hunting anywhere other than in a NO HUNT park in environmentally significant area?

 

Day 1 (November 11)  17 deer were killed – 8 male and 9 female, two of which were fawns

Day 2 (November 12)  – 6 deer were killed – 2 male and 4 female deer were killed (The Ministry refused to tell us how many were fawns)

Day 3 (November 25) – 15 deer were killed (although protesters and police counted 21 by visual confirmation)

Day 4 (November 26)  –  4 deer were killed – MNRF won’t disclose, but 6 deer were counted in a single truck

Day 5 (December 4)   MNRF won’t disclose, but 6 deer were counted in a single truck

Day 6 (December 5)   1 deer was killed

 

Unpacking the hypocrisy of the hunt and its proponents:

The hunters have long maintained that hunting in the park is a food sovereignty issue and they use all parts of the deer. So why are there so many skins, heads, and gut piles strewn throughout the park well after the hunt?  Why was a disembodied deer head shuttled in and out of the park over several days – why has the body apparently been abandoned in a food sustenance hunt? And why was a deer carcass abandoned at the foot of Swayze Falls, where it has remained for several days and is possibly still there?  For many people, the type of sporting contest apparently taking place in Short Hills (the “Big Buck Competition”) is representative of an anthropocentric philosophical perspective – the antithesis of what we are told is indigenous hunting.  Paradoxically, the taking of trophies is a product of the colonial/capitalist forces that the pro-hunt groups claim they despise.   An animal trophy reminds us, on a subliminal level, of the wealthy hunters depleting the landscapes on foreign lands in order to assert their ascendancy and control.

In another ironic exchange,  the (satirical but unintentionally accurate) Walking Eagle News makes the point that anyone taking hunting selfies puts ego over responsibility.  The number of “selfies” taken for the Big Buck Competition held in Short Hills suggests that many participants are more interested in obtaining trophies than in adhering  to “cultural traditions.” I doubt that most people who truly engage in subsistence hunting spend a lot of time on Facebook.

 

 

Once again this year, the pro-hunt camp complained that our signage is somehow racist (any kind of trigger that makes a hunt support angry or defensive is considered racist – even our last names evoke feelings of distrust, prejudice, and blame).  However,  unlike a person’s name or place of birth, beliefs can be argued for, tested, criticized, and changed. The more pugnacious hunt supporters turned their attention to our clothing – we should all expect a turn in the cage with someone from this group either online or IRL.  On this day, the supports are affronted by a protester wearing a “skull” face shield.  A complaint was received by police on the scene November 25th, asking that the protester be removed because of his attire.  Why is a face shield commonly sold in outdoor stores considered to be objectionable when worn by an anti-hunt demonstrator?   It seems perfectly acceptable however, when donned by a hunter.

 

 

In previous hunts it has been observed that some hunters attempted to walk into or out of the park after it commenced, with unencased bows.  Joe McCambridge, former president of the Ontario Conservation Officers Associations (OCOA), stresses that: “If you are going to hunt until the end of legal shooting time, you must take a proper case with you and encase your firearm after [sundown]. This includes bows and crossbows.”  I wonder what McCambridge would think of bows that are completely forgotten in the park? This bow was accidentally left in the park as-is, by a careless hunter after the sanctioned hunt in 2016,  and was found by someone walking the trails the next day.  It was turned over to the police.

The deer in the album below were found both in the park and well beyond the park boundary and buffer zone on private property, further evidence that the hunt is not safe and that boundaries simply aren’t respected.  All images are from the current 2017 hunt.  The dead deer at Swayze Falls was abandoned with an obvious hunting-related injury.  The MNRF appears to frown on the killing and abandonment of deer when it occurs in provincial parks that are not Short Hills. How many  other deer suffered and died on their own, undiscovered by anyone?

Some hunt supports have claimed that whenever injured deer are found,  it can only be due to poachers.  If so, then the poachers were hunting in the park at the same time as the Haudensaunee hunters,  in which case the MNRF is unable to effectively close the park to people who are not permitted to be there.

 

 

All photos below were captured within Short Hills Park or the Hydro corridor over several hunts.  The doe with the neatly assembled entrails and head was tracked by her blood trail from the park to the Hydro corridor.  All the rest of the entrails and various remains were found within the park on a main hiking trail about an 8 minute hike from the Wiley Rd. parking lot, a designated entrance into the park, some heavily predated by the time they were found.

To those pro-hunters who claim the remains found in the park have been “staged” by animal rights activists,  we can only ask,  where would AR activists obtain the remains of deer?  I suggest that the conspiracy-minded become acquainted with William of Ockham’s most famous quote: “With all things being equal, the simplest explanation tends to be the right one.” 

 

 

The prevailing monologue we hear about the Short Hills hunt is that it’s an issue of a right to hunt and that the hunt is based on subsistence needs/food sovereignty etc., but commentary and photos by the hunters themselves suggests otherwise.  Since the hunt began in 2013,  almost 200 deer have been killed according to the MNRF’s own records, and even if we assume that’s accurate,  it doesn’t account for deer that escaped with fatal injuries,  to die later elsewhere.   The rate of extermination of deer,  the level of depreciative use, and damage to the park during the days of the hunt is far greater than the ability of the resource to conserve itself.

The pre-ecological thinkers at the MNRF continue to take the road of junk-science in furthering their agenda – greenwashing the hunt as a “herd reduction” of “overpopulated deer,” which coats this violence with a respectable veener for public consumption. But by the Ministry’s own account not a single deer examined by the biologist during the hunt showed signs of starvation or illness, measures of overabundance.  How long do they think this NO HUNT Short Hills  Game Farm  park can sustain the killing of 30-50 deer each and every year?  Not only that, but why should any hunter anywhere have the exclusive “right” to kill any animal that the rest of society might value alive?  Killing a sentient being is the ultimate oppression, no matter what the reason or who is carrying it out.

 

“Kill Everything”

 

 

 

Access-To-Information Docs Reveal Auctions and Feedlots are “Bad at Paperwork”

Standard

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

“…all horse meat producers must obtain the health and medical history – complete with information on all drugs and vaccines used – of each horse for the 180 day period before consumption.”

– standard form letter response from Conservative MPs – 2016.

Whenever I read documents obtained through an Access-To-Information request, I think the bar for this industry cannot go lower. The ATI documents included here covered all Equine Lot Inspection Audits for the years 2015-2017 year-to-date, and captured conversations between CFIA veterinarians and feedlot/auction staff.  These Lot Inspections are audits that are carried out approximately once a year, although it appears that our favourite Farmville operators, Bouvry Exports’/Prime lot is being audited more frequently. When you read the audit reports, you’ll understand why – the CFIA appears to be doing a fair bit of manual checking of their record-keeping.

It should really come as no surprise that feedlots and auctions have a perpetual struggle with the paperwork required to track horses from receipt to slaughter.  Kill buyers are bottom level feeders who travel from auction to auction picking up horses. They have no idea where these horses come from, nor do they care.  Auctions and feedlots typically will complete just enough paperwork so that can scrape by, and they’re going to fill it out in the way that it needs to be filled out so that it meets the CFIA criteria. Sometimes though, they can’t even meet the minimum standard and even the CFIA has to write them up when uncomplicated record management tasks are turned into Sisyphean clusterfucks.

So what is the Lot Program and how does it work?

The lot program is used by high volume accumulators of horses for the purpose of slaughter.  It’s really a sort of “express lane” in that these producers use a group declaration (the Lot-EID or LEID) in lieu of individual EIDs. The program requires at least a 180 day recorded history prior to slaughter. Lot inspections review the procedures maintained in Lot Programs for equine feedlots – this covers the control of EIDs (Equine Information Documents), vaccines, medications, movement of horses in and out of each lot and a few other criteria.  Please note that the lot program does not verify the health of any equines or the condition of the feedlot itself. The CFIA describes the process in more detail if you need it.

If you’re new to the horse slaughter issue, here’s a bit of history on the EID – its implementation  was announced by then-Director of the Meat Programs Division of the CFIA, Dr. Richard Arsenault, in a response letter to the European Commission on October 23, 2009.  Arsenault announced that, in order to meet EC requirements for exporting horsemeat, every equine presented for slaughter as of July 31, 2010 would be accompanied by an Equine Information Document.

Fast forward to 2014 when the European Commission’s Food and veterinary Office released an audit in 2014 that raised concerns about the tracking process.  In 2011 the same issues were raised, so you could say there’s little evidence of improvement. You can read the final reportthe response, and the CFIA proposed changes.

The audits reveal that, shockingly, Bouvry Exports/Prime Feedlot holds anywhere from 7,000 – 10,000 horses at any given time.  According to the audit reports,  a total of 52 lots of horses are sent to their deaths each year (1 lot per week).  Additionally, horses who receive any medication while on the lot are subjected to painful branding and re-branding as part of the record-keeping process.

Forms Are So Hard And Confusing!

The February 2016 audit of Bouvry’s Prime Feedlot (where the report indicated 10,000+ horses were on-hand) contained some findings flagged as “unacceptable” by the Veterinarian-in-Charge:

Finding #6 and #7 (see pages 31 and 35): – “…drug list was changed in August but not updated.  CFIA wasn’t informed.  Instead of Derapen (penicillin G Procain) which is no longer available, Biomycin is used since August 2015.  Biomycin is not authorized to be used yet.“ At the time of writing, Biomycin is not even listed on the Meat Hygiene manual for equines.  The manufacturer of Biomycin states that is has a withdrawal time of 28 days (for cattle).

Finding #20 (see page 32 and 36): – “One of the records reviewed was not transferred from daily vaccine application records (lot records) to a Lot Equine Information Document.  Fluvac vaccine application was missing.  All other records verified during the audit were accurately transcribed.”

Finding #25 (see page 33 and 36): – “No EIDS on file, none reviewed.  [Redacted] said the horse [kill] buyers did not supply any of EIDS [SIC] along with horses purchased.  This issue was discussed at the previous audit and Prime Equine Lot.”

So there were no EIDs on file for an entire lot of horses?  What happened to slaughter-bound horses without them?  There is no mention of what became of them, or whether anyone attempted to locate the missing paperwork, although I presume the horses were slaughtered anyway, no matter how laughably incomplete or non-compliant the paperwork was.

“It is the responsibility of the Lot Program management to request EIDS and verify for non-permitted drugs.”

Supplemental Export Reports for a May 2016 visit that summarizes communications with regards to an Operational Guidance protocol distributed in February 2016. (page 45-47)

Perlich Bros. Auction  gets called out for not collecting EIDs:

“[Redacted] contacted [redacted] of Perlich auction market over the phone in April 2016 (specific date unknown). The purpose of the call was explained, and [redacted] was asked about the creation of EIDs at his auction market.  [Redacted’s] response was that, while [redacted] staff were happy to handle any EIDS that are submitted with equines for sale, no effort is made to ensure that horses enter auction with complete EIDS, that is is [SIC] “not their job,” and that the responsibility for obtaining valid EIDS lies with the buying agent.  Very few are thus processed at [redacted] auction.”  At this late stage (7 years after the implementation of the EID), how is it that the incomprehensibly stubborn auction staff can give the standard disclaimer, “that’s not my department?”

CFIA resorts to googling kill buyers/plant management for follow-up information:

“On 12 April [redacted] received a list of buying agents for the Bouvry plant from [redacted] who was, at the time, a CFIA meat hygiene inspector at the plant. When contact information was requested for these individuals, so that upcoming verifications could be discussed, it was requested that an explanation/reasoning for the request be sent directly to plant management.  This was done by [redacted] on 13 April.  Having not received a response by early the next week, a Google search was conducted to find a contact number for [redacted] spoke to [redacted] over the phone on 18 or 19 April.  The potential for CFIA presence at upcoming horse auctions was discussed, as was the method with which he goes about obtaining EIDS for slaughter horses.  [Redacted] reply was that [redacted] no longer buys horses for this purpose (slaughter) at Perlich auction because of the difficulty of obtaining EIDs.  [Redacted] rather focuses on the Innisfail Auction Market (IAM) where all horses enter auction with EID unless explicitly declared by the owner that the animal is not for meat sale. There [redacted] is able to enter the ring and verify that the EID is acceptable before bidding on the horse.”

So who is “redacted” in this scenario?  Clearly there is more than one person whose name has been concealed.  Either this person is a kill buyer(s) or plant management, in which case, if they didn’t respond to the CFIA enquiry,  that’s pretty inexcusable.

“[Redacted] encouraged the CFIA to audit [redacted] activities at the IAM.”

CFIA to Bouvry – EIDs must accompany all horses to the feedlot:

“It was felt that in order to conduct the verification task correctly, the district needed to be clear on whether or not it was permissible for horses bought in Canada to enter the feedlot system without an EID…”  “The response was that unless there was some other auditable means (on file) of ensuring a history of no non-permitted substances in the horse(s) no horse without a valid EID is allowed to enter the feedlot, despite a six-month waiting period.”

The CFIA’s attempt to enforce what must seem like an unfathomable bureaucracy apparently perturbed staff at Bouvry’s, who sent an inquiry to the CFIA asking why [redacted] was “asking so many questions.” Due to the difficulties with paperwork at the Perlich auction, the CFIA discussed attending their auction on overtime and it was decided that this was not a valuable use of CFIA resources. Recommendations were passed to the Red Deer CFIA office for a vet inspector presence at Innisfail.

The confusion that continues to this day over the EID and other paperwork is evidence that inputs into the food chain are not something to be taken casually, yet that is exactly what is happening.  The doubts highlighted in these reports leave another cloud over the already sordid industry – something policymakers need to pay attention to.

Despite this, Dr. Richard Arsenault, former director of the meat programs division for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), thinks that the regulations are working“It’s extremely well respected in terms of compliance” – a statement that he has continually championed throughout the years. This is basically the same feeble confirmation that is echoed by anyone in charge of any aspect of the meat program at the CFIA. Downstream, MPs may take months before they reply to our complaints about horse slaughter, and if they do it’s usually nothing more than the standard form letter that doesn’t even address the concerns raised by the constituent.  Instead, the response parrots the same impotent reassurances put out by the CFIA.

The horse slaughter pipeline is one of the most unregulated livestock venues in North America. There is absolutely no desire or motivation on the US side to enforce EID authenticity because Americans do not eat horsemeat. There is no resolve on the Canadian side because they are importing horses for the purpose of (primarily) exporting the meat. Regulating this paperwork would cost everyone money, and no one wants to do that.

You may also download these documents here.

New ASPCA Study Examines The Availability Of Homes for Unwanted Horses in the United States

Standard

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

Simply offering a horse for sale is no guarantee of finding a suitable home for that animal,  even if young and sound.  The process is even more challenging if the horse is older, untrained, or has behavioural or physical issues, or if the economy is poor.  While most shelters and rescues are likely at capacity,  a study conducted by the Research and Development/Community Outreach arm of the ASPCA found that there do appear to be untapped resources that could be called upon to re-home horses within the general public.

The question posed by the study is whether there are enough private homes to accommodate the number of unwanted American horses currently being sent to slaughter.  Using Edge Research to conduct a telephone survey, the researchers attempted to pre-qualify people who would be willing to adopt unwanted horses, determine what characteristics were required of horses to be considered “adoptable” in the respondent’s opinion, and whether potential adopters thought they had adequate resources to keep a horse. The criteria for establishing initial interest was that the respondent currently owns a horse,  has owned a horse in the past 5 years, or is interested in acquiring a horse in the near future.

From the Abstract: “Estimating the Availability of Potential Homes for Unwanted Horses in the United States”

 

“There are approximately 200,000 unwanted horses annually in the United States. This study aimed to better understand the potential homes for horses that need to be re-homed. Using an independent survey company through an Omnibus telephone (land and cell) survey, we interviewed a nationally projectable sample of 3036 adults (using both landline and cellular phone numbers) to learn of their interest and capacity to adopt a horse.

Potential adopters with interest in horses with medical and/or behavioral problems and self-assessed perceived capacity to adopt, constituted 0.92% of the total sample. Extrapolating the results of this survey using U.S. Census data, suggests there could be an estimated 1.25 million households who have both the self-reported and perceived resources and desire to house an unwanted horse. This number exceeds the estimated number of unwanted horses living each year in the United States.

This study points to opportunities and need to increase communication and support between individuals and organizations that have unwanted horses to facilitate re-homing with people in their community willing to adopt them.”

 

The ASPCA estimates that a more realistic, true count is more likely to be about .72 million households. Still, these numbers may not reflect an objective set of adopters though, since people often overstate or overestimate their ability or available resources to care for a horse properly, or their circumstances change after the survey.  Nevertheless, the study results suggest that new channels of communication between potential horse owners and organizations/rescues are needed to grow the horse industry by engaging new audiences and creatively promoting horse adoption.

 

Animals Without Borders

Standard

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

The construction of barriers along borders is a hardly a new practice, from the Great Wall of China and Hadrian’s Wall to the present day. Aside from the existing 580 miles of wall between the US and Mexico, North and South Korea, and Israel and the West Bank are also separated by borders. Fences also separate Malaysia and Thailand, India and Pakistan, Iran and Iraq, China and Mongolia, and Botswana and Zimbabwe. These border walls do not merely impact people, but also have unintended consequences for wildlife by curtailing their movements.

Trump’s megalithic construction project will require an enormous staging area complete with access roads, heavy equipment, and supporting structures even before the wall is completed.

Up until very recently Donald Trump’s idea for a wall on the U.S.–Mexico border has existed as little more than a psychosocial framework – a chest-pounding display for bully boys. There were certainly many clues that the totally unscripted, unrehearsed, and unedited Trump was hostile to animal rights and animal welfare issues prior to the election. He and his sons spoke negatively about animal rights advocates and he has affiliated himself with supporters of agricultural gag laws. Proving that not only people will suffer from “Trumpism,” the House Appropriations Committee has approved a 1.6 billion down payment on a wall that will help ensure that endangered animals are endangered right into extinction.

The United States Army Corps of Engineers has begun preliminary preparations for the construction of segments of a wall in several places along the border with Mexico. Immediately impacted is the 2,088 acre Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge.  The federally owned refuge, established in 1943, is often referred to as the “crown jewel of the national wildlife refuge system,” and could see construction begin as early as January 2018. This will destroy the refuge, one of the top birding destinations in North America. In addition, the US Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that the project will potentially impact 111 endangered species, 108 species of migratory bird, four wildlife refuges and fish hatcheries, and an unknown number of protected wetlands.

A voyage across the US-Mexico border, stitched together from 200,000 satellite images, criss-crossing through private land, native territories, and the Rio Grande.

 

 

It’s certainly true that highways, railroads, canals, and other types of human-created infrastructures already harm wildlife. Knowing that, you may ask why border walls are different. While human developments continue to encroach on animal territories, most projects are constructed as part of an overall planning process where there is usually an attempt to minimize the impacts by federal or state laws. A border is designed to be impenetrable – for people certainly, but also for wildlife. International law doesn’t prelude the US from constructing a border fence, except when such construction would violate federal or international wildlife laws. The Sierra Club maintains that multiple Federal laws will need to be waived by Department of Homeland Security, in order to construct the remaining 1,400 or so miles of border wall.

National Environmental Policy Act
Endangered Species Act
National Historic Preservation Act
Archaeological Resources Protection Act
Safe Drinking Water Act
Noise Control Act
Solid Waste Disposal Act
Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act
Archaeological and Historic Preservation Act
Historic Sites, Buildings, and Antiquities Act
Wild and Scenic Rivers Act
Farmland Protection Policy Act
Coastal Zone Management Act
Wilderness Act
Federal Land Policy and Management Act
National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act
Fish and Wildlife Act of 1956
Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act
Administrative Procedure Act
Otay Mountain Wilderness Act of 1999
California Desert Protection Act
National Park Service Organic Act
National Park Service General Authorities Act
National Parks and Recreation Act of 1978
Arizona Desert Wilderness Act
Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899
Eagle Protection Act
Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act
American Indian Religious Freedom Act
Religious Freedom Restoration Act
National Forest Management Act of 1976
Multiple Use and Sustained Yield Act of 1960
Federal Grants and Cooperative Agreements Act of 1977

Existing border fences include (combinations of) chain link, barbed or razor wire fences, electrified fences, steel fences, concrete walls, sand walls (e.g., Morocco/Western Sahara), mud walls (e.g., Pakistan/Afghanistan), trenches and even underground metal walls (e.g., Egypt/Gaza Strip). Common accessories include roads, floodlights, human guards, dogs and landmines.

In order for a species to survive, populations need move about, travelling to various food and water sources and for seasonal migration. Climate change has made this mobility imperative for wildlife.  There are many unintended consequences that result from preventing the natural movements of animals. Impenetrable fences impede this mobility and fragment habitats, isolate populations, cause genetic isolation and alter behaviours that may be important to the long-term survival of the populations or species involved. When populations are small, species need as much intermixing as possible in order to survive – smaller populations of already endangered animals will suffer without access to the varied genetics of animals blocked by the wall. Nocturnal animals can also be disrupted by floodlighting on walls, which interfere with their normal routines for feeding etc.  Additionally, both poachers and predators can take unfair advantage of animals whose escape is prevented by border walls – some wily predators have learned to chase prey into fences. Since large carnivores and herbivores play particularly influential roles in the food chain, this can have a profound effect by cascading through the ecosystem.

Even fences that were created for the purpose of safeguarding one species usually harm others. Consider for instance, the consequences of the so-called dingo and rabbit-proof fences in Australia.

Photo Credit: Graeme Chapman. Western Australia’s State Barrier Fence represents a continuation of colonial era attitudes that separated or blocked the movements of kangaroos, emus, rabbits, and dingoes.

Designed to prevent dingos from predating sheep and keep other wild animals off farmland, the fences also separated the dingos from kangaroos, so there was a massive increase in the kangaroo population, whose expanded populations went on to compete with the sheep for forage. Like the proposed US border wall, the rabbit-proof fence basically cuts the continent in half. These Australian fences also affected the dispersion of plant seeds by preventing Emus (who eat the fruits of native plants) from travelling long distances, resulting in a loss of biodiversity of plant life.

Fencing to prevent disease transference from wild animals and livestock often resulted in devastating consequences as well. In the 1950s, fence construction in Kruger National Park restricted wildebeest to half of their original range, obstructing their migration to seasonal water sources and contributing to a population drop of 90%.

Two recent studies have shed even more light on the effects walls have on wildlife.  A 2016 study published in the Review of European, Comparative and International Environmental Law found that “border fences can cause declines and even local disappearance of species.”  Authors of another study in the journal PloS Biology found that border fences erected to prevent refugee migration “were erected as emergency measures with no environmental impact assessments.” and the authors went on to suggest that a “wide range of high-tech monitoring methods are now available that would allow selected sections of a border to remain unfenced, while still providing security.”  the latter study focused on Slovenia where over 100 miles of barbed and razor-wire fencing have been erected along about one-third of the border with Croatia.  A slew of mangled animal carcasses – especially red deer have been found caught in the coils of wire.

During the Cold War, an electrified barbed-wire fence separated what was then Communist Czechoslovakia from what was then West Germany. It kept the Czechs from crossing over into Bavaria. Well, nowadays it’s the Czech Republic and the electric fence is no longer there, no longer keeping people out of what is now a united Germany. But two decades after that stretch of the Iron Curtain came down, the deer from Czech Republic’s Sumava National Park still won’t cross the area where the former electrified fence was decades ago.

Even when walls are later removed, animals are often hesitant to cross the area where the former border stood. Red deer who were formerly separated by an electric fence that divided Communist Czechoslovakia from what was then West Germany now refuse to cross the border where the fence used to stand. Even though the areas is now forest, the deer still tend to stick to either the Czech or German sides and are essentially two separate populations of animals.  This is an interesting example of social learning within the herds, since the electric fence was removed over 20 years ago and generally red deer don’t live beyond 15 years, so the currently living animals would never have encountered the electric fence

Given that the stated purpose of Trump’s wall is to keep people out, it is unlikely to include areas of passage for large herbivores or predators. So, leave it to Trump and the serially science-denying flat-earthers of the Republican party to exacerbate the current mass extinction emergency by regarding our ecosystem as merely a resource to be monetized and exploited. The wall will, if actually completed, severely undermine the Endangered Species Act and remove or block protections for imperiled species. This is one reason why Trump wants to kill off the EPA – so there is no environmental impact study on the wall.  It’s a “silver bullet” that’s a politically expedient yet inevitably, a major ecological intervention.

Don Jr.: ““Wouldn’t it be great to bring in a sportsman to run the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and a conservationist (not a radical environmentalist) in to run the U.S. Forest Service? How about bringing a real farmer or rancher in to run the Department of Agriculture? What about having a farmer or rancher head the EPA? My dad will bring people into government who will be leaders, who will provide focus and direction for these departments and agencies and who will get these departments and agencies to focus on their missions rather than on advancing some political agenda.” source – http://www.outdoorlife.com/what-donald-trump-administration-says-it-would-do-to-our-wildlife-streams-and-forests

A Good Good-Bye…

Standard

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

Life pulses in the countryside in the hamlet of Ancaster, Ontario. Away from the town, the meticulously maintained Ancaster Pet Cemetery (founded by Hamilton veterinarian Dudley Collins) is a peaceful, park-like setting that is filled with tiny plots, a mismatched array of graves with markers that give the visitor a clue to what decade the pets were buried here.  A stroll through a pet cemetery offers an interesting glimpse into the lives of pets and their people and at the timelessness of the human-animal bond.  The inscriptions on the headstones and plaques bear mute witness to the grief each person felt at the loss of their pet. The treed cemetery is also a veritable sanctuary for chipmunks and birds.  A visit to this three-acre park, which has been in operation nearly 50 years, will likely find you with little (human) company, so it’s also a great place to spend time with a camera.

We loved this place so much that we chose to bury our dog Coco here in June 2017.  Green burials are becoming much more popular, which is a return to old ways, if you will.  In the Toronto area, there are very few options beyond cremation for pets.  The Ancaster Pet Cemetery (zoned as a cemetery rather than farmland) allows you to bury your pet in a shroud, box, casket, or simply laid in the ground.   We preferred burial over cremation since the idea of cremation seemed violent to us and also, I liked the idea of our dog having a connection back to the earth—being connected to a place and being returned to the earth from whence she came, gradually, over time.

Without question, people do this out of love and loyalty to their beloved pets (the cemetery contains the remains of not only dogs and cats,  but horses, service animals, and even a tiger). Coco’s resting place will be a great source of comfort to me in the coming years, and the cemetery is an interesting place to visit.  Being here drives us to reflect not only on the mortality of the pets buried here and their owners who may have passed on years ago, but on our own mortality. Pet cemeteries are not creepy abandoned places but moving, provocative places, with powerful memories, full of love.  I like to think of this place as a public park that just happens to have a lot of permanent residents.

View the full photographic album of the

Ancaster Pet Cemetery on FLICKR.

Thou who passest on the path, if haply thou dost mark this monument,
Laugh not, I pray thee,
Though it is a dog’s grave; tears fell for me,
And the dust was heaped above me by a master’s hands,
Who likewise engraved these words upon my tomb. ~ Unknown