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

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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.

 

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Animals Without Borders

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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…

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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

Horse and Cattle Feedlot Property For Sale – Another Sign Of The Times?

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The 170 acre property of a feedlot operator in Canada who has collected horses for the purpose of selling them for meat is now for sale.

This area is prime for redevelopment, both commercial and residential,  so hopefully trading in horses (and cattle)  here will become a thing of the past.

The Case For Breed Specific Legislation In Montreal

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The Case For Breed Specific Legislation In Montreal

In 2016 on the Toronto beaches, a woman and her pit bull/mastiff cross dog were attacked by a pit bull urged on by a man who wanted to see the two dogs fight. Technically both dogs should have been muzzled under the Dog Owners Liability Act in Ontario. The aggressor took off with his dog leaving the woman to deal with her injuries. (Photo Global News) http://globalnews.ca/news/2796014/toronto-dog-owner-randomly-attacked-by-pit-bull-at-woodbine-beach/

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

In the last two years,  nearly 20 people and animals were injured or killed by pit bull type dogs in the province of Quebec.  Pit bull type dogs have inflicted a disproportionate number of serious bites and maulings to people, pets and livestock.  Multiple sources – independent, retrospective and/or longitudinal studies available on National Institute of Health databases, opinions of reconstructive surgeons, epidemiologists, oral and maxillofacial surgeons, insurance companies, and trauma units all arrive at the same conclusions.

The debates occurring as a result of the BSL legislation passed in Montreal and Quebec might lead the casual observer to conclude that the ban (but apparently not the maulings) is the greatest social problem in the entirety of the province.  In reality, the requirements of the ban are not unreasonable; the Montreal and Quebec legislation still guarantees rights of current pit bull owners provided they adhere to the licensing, muzzling, neuter/spay, and leash regulations. Opponents to Montreal’s BSL regs usually cite the “Calgary Model” as the ideal success story of responsible dog ownership – a model they believe that Montreal councilors should have implemented instead.  Calgary may not have banned pit bulls outright, but the program is not a sweeping success. Even with a potential $10,000 fine, serious dog bites continued to increase in the city.

Rafah Bakour of Calgary in a family photo. She was attacked by a pit bull while walking. The attack is categorized as a Level 5, just below the most severe type — Level 6 — which results in death. Even if the dog owner receives a maximum fine of $10,000 under the Calgary system, that money will not go towards Bakour’s injuries and will not indemnify her.

Before his retirement, Head of Bylaw Services (which includes animal control) Bill Bruce became well known for Calgary’s pet management “success.”  Indeed, there were many positive aspects of the model and pet registration itself was phenomenally successfully relative to registration rates elsewhere.  Bruce however, maintained that in other jurisdictions breed bans did not reduce “the overall number of bites in the community.” If he were actually expecting to reduce bites, Bruce would have to ban all dogs, since all dogs of all sizes and breeds will bite and this fact is not in dispute.  Breed bans cannot stop all bites and are not designed to – the goal is to reduce the most statistically significant bites – maulings and fatalities, while balancing the rights of other people and animal owners for relative safety.

The late Dr. Sophia Yin is referenced in the Calgary SPCA Report in their 6 level bite system. You may also refer to Dr. Ian Dunbar’s Dog Bite Scale.

In 2004, the last full year before BSL was implemented in Ontario, there were 984 licensed pit bulls in the city and 168 reported bites. By comparison, in 2013 there were 501 pit bulls registered in Toronto, and just 13 bites. Yet in Calgary, the numbers show the real failure of the system – dog attacks in Calgary went from 58 in 2009 to 201 in 2014, a disproportionate number of them by pit bulls. Most concerning of all is that the severity of bites has increased – in Calgary in 2014, there were 244 dog bites of a Level 3 severity or higher. This is an increase over 2013, when 198 bites were reported at, or exceeding, Level 3.

Bill Bruce also had a serious conflict of interest while at Bylaw Services – he was an advisor to the National Canine Research Council (NCRC), an American lobby group that is funded by the Animal Farm Foundation, who promote the concept of a pit bull in every home, over and above any other breed of dog. The fact that Bruce was aligned with the NCRC means that pit bulls would very likely receive favourable and preferential treatment over people, other pets, and livestock while he was in charge.

 

Bruce’s successor, Ryan Jeslin, Calgary’s current director of Animal and Bylaw Services had a different view of the animal control model he inherited:

“I’m very concerned about pit bulls and Rottweilers. There’s a history, there’s a reason why places like the city of Toronto have banned them outright,”  After a series of attacks by pit bull type dogs in 2015,  Jeslin went on to say, “The evidence clearly here is about pit bulls. That specific breed has caused real damage over the last five days.”

Except for the focus on pit bull type dogs,  there are actually many commonalities between the Montreal/Quebec legislation and recommendations for safer communities proposed by SPCAs:

Key Points in the Montreal and Quebec  Bylaw/Bill

Montreal: By-Law 16-060

“Pit bull-type dog” is defined as being:

  • a dog belonging to the American pit bull terrier, American Staffordshire terrier or Staffordshire bull terrier race [breed];
  • a dog born of a crossbreeding between one of the races [breeds] mentioned in paragraph (1) and another dog;
  • a dog showing several morphological traits of the races [breeds] and types of crossbreeding listed in paragraphs (1) and (2)

Licenses will be issued for Pit bull-type dogs if the following conditions are met:

No it isn’t “dog racism.” This is a straw man argument. Dogs have historically been bred for different functions desired by man.
Despite the escalation of deaths and maulings, legislators are being bullied by advocacy groups into protecting the “breed” rights as opposed to public safety.
People discriminate against breeds all the time when choosing one type of dog over another.

  • the first application is filed before December 31, 2016
  • the applicant provides proof that the dog has been sterilized or a written opinion from a veterinary surgeon establishing that the animal cannot be sterilized;
  • the applicant provides proof that the dog has been vaccinated against rabies and  proof of follow-ups, as applicable, at the city’s request;
  • the applicant provides proof that the dog has a microchip;
  • the applicant provides a certificate of negative search of a criminal record or, in the case of a certificate of positive search of a criminal record, a certificate issued by the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal confirming that the applicant has not  been declared guilty, in the five years prior to the date of filing or renewal of the licence application, of an offence under a provision listed in schedule 1 of this by-law;
  • the applicant is 18 years of age or older;
  • the applicant provides a document indicating that:
    • at the date of coming into force of this by-law, the applicant was the owner of the dog referred to in this application;
    • the applicant is a resident of a city borough where, under the by-laws applicable up until the date of coming into force of this by-law, it was possible to obtain a licence to keep a Pit bull-type dog

When outside, the dog guardians must ensure that the dogs are:

  • Muzzled at all times
  • Kept on a leash no longer than 1.25m, except in an exercise area or in an area closed off by a fence at least 2 m high
  • Under the supervision of a person 18 years of age or older
  • Displaying the tag issued by the city with the special licence

Charges for offences range from $300 to $4000.

Quebec Bill 128 – An Act to Promote the Protection of Persons by Establishing a Framework with Regard to Dogs. 

The Bill makes it obligatory for veterinarians to report dog related injuries.Veterinary surgeons are also required to report, to the municipality concerned, any dog that they have reasonable cause to believe constitutes a risk for public health or safety. In cases where a dog has inflicted injury on a person, physicians are required to report the fact to the local municipality concerned without delay, and communicate the seriousness of the injury and, if known, the breed or type of dog that inflicted it. The local municipality may also declare a dog that has bitten or attacked a person or domestic animal and inflicted injury potentially dangerous

Dangerous dogs:

In the case of a dog that has bitten or attacked a person and caused death or serious injury, the local municipality must order the dog’s owner or custodian to have the dog euthanized.

Dogs that are deemed to be potentially dangerous:

(1) pit bulls, including American pit bull terriers, American Staffordshire terriers and Staffordshire bull terriers;

(2) Rottweilers;

(3) a crossbreed of a dog listed in paragraph 1 or 2 and another dog;

(4) hybrid dogs that are a cross between a dog and a canid other than a dog; and

(5) dogs trained to protect, guard, fight or attack

 

For more detail, please read:

 

Montreal BSL

 

 

Quebec Bill 128

 

 

With a few exceptions, BSL in Montreal satisfies these requirements.  The Quebec Bill 128 also makes it mandatory for veterinarians to report dog bites that are a concern for public safety. Doctors must also report appropriately. And if BSL is too expensive, why are these proposals, many of which require a level of government to administer, considered more cost-effective?

 

The catalyst for the Montreal and Quebec legislation seems to lie with Franklin Junior Frontal’s aptly named dog “Lucifer” – a dog he had owned since puppyhood – a dog who ultimately

Photo and caption from the “Muzzle-Up Project” on Facebook.
“Would you rather kill me than see me like this?
My mum had someone tell her they would rather put a bullet in their dog’s head than put a muzzle on them. That upset my mum a lot. Do I look unhappy? Do I look like I’m lacking anything in life? Wearing a muzzle allows me to experience more of life. It helps me feel more confident, it helps my mum feel less stressed, and allows people to pat and cuddle me without anyone worrying that I might bite them.
Wearing a muzzle doesn’t make a dog a bad dog. It might mean they’ve made a mistake, or they might make a mistake if others don’t listen and push them over their limits. Wearing a muzzle means they have a responsible owner who is committed to preventing accidents and worse case scenarios.
If only people were less ignorant, their dogs could live better lives.”

killed Montreal resident Christiane Vadnais in 2016.  According to his lawyer, Frontal had approached the SPCA in the past  for help in dealing with the dog’s aggression and behavior problems.  Pit bull activists have long questioned whether the dog that killed Vadnais was in fact a pit bull, because it had been registered as a boxer. Despite these claims, a veterinarian confirmed that the dog that attacked and killed the victim was indeed a pit bull and not a boxer.

Public health decisions are not always made on the basis of the number of people negatively impacted.  The population in question can be large as the inhabitants of several continents (as in the case of a pandemic) or as small as a few individuals.   For instance, over 2 million baby cribs were recalled in 2009 after “only” 4 infant deaths.  BSL demands a phase-out of breeding and importation, and the dogs must be on a short leash and muzzled when appearing in public. These are reasonable, logical and ethical measures and not entirely dissimilar from what the Montreal SPCA has proposed as an “alternative” to BSL.

People who care about dogs won’t care that they can’t import or breed more pit bulls.  They can go to the shelter, Petfinder, or many other rescues on Facebook and choose to help a dog that is sitting on death row, which is far more ethical than breeding or importing (and ultimately euthanizing) more prohibited dogs into the province.

Accused of second degree murder, this Hamilton, Ontario resident who is a self-acknowledged former dog fighter, is shown with a pit bull, a banned dog in Ontario. Under Montreal’s BSL by-law, anyone convicted of a criminal offence within the 5 year period preceeding the license application would not be granted a license for a pit bull type dog. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/hamilton/news/hamilton-man-facing-murder-charge-held-in-custody-1.3510601
The accused was also quoted about pit bulls in this 2013 article – http://m.thespec.com/news-story/4026540-a-breed-apart-banned-pit-bulls-are-still-around

 

By The Numbers: Study Reviews 13 Years of Ontario Racing Commission “Death Registry” Data

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Barbaro is held by jockey Edgar Prado and a track worker after injuring his leg at the start of the 131st running of the Preakness Stakes, in this May 20, 2006 file photo, at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore. Barbaro was euthanized Monday, Jan. 29, 2007, after complications from his breakdown at the Preakness last May. (AP Photo/Matthew S. Gunby, file)

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

Beneath the facade, commercial horse racing subjects horses to catastrophic injuries and sudden deaths. Young thoroughbreds, standardbreds, and quarter horses die every week on racetracks from injuries sustained while training and racing. Remember Barbaro? He was euthanized at 3½ years old due to an injury he sustained at the Preakness. Eight Belles was euthanized at 2½ years old due to catastrophic breakdown after a second place win at the Kentucky Derby. And when Rachel Alexandra lost her last race she was shipped off to be a baby making machine. She suffered grave complications at the birth of her first foal.

The majority of racehorses will not survive past the age of 10 and only a small fraction will ever be “good enough” to race.  Approximately 70% +/- of all racehorses are thought to end their lives in a slaughterhouse.

A  new study was just published using 13 years of data from the Ontario Racing Commission Death Registry.  The ORC database was implemented on January 1, 2003; owners, trainers and veterinarians were, from that point forward, required to notify the Commission within two days of the death of any racehorse (Thoroughbred. Quarter horse, or Standardbred) where the death occurred within 60 days of the horse having been entered or qualified to race in Ontario Canada. If the death occurs within 14 days of the horse having been entered or qualified, post-mortems are mandatory and may include gross pathological examination results, histopathology, parisitology, bacteriology, mycoplasmology, virgology, and toxicology.

Of the 963 horses in the database, a postmortem was carried out on 56% of those or approximately 539 horses (presumably those horses who died within 14 days of a race or during a race).  Of these 539 horses:

68% died/were euthanized due to musculoskeletal injury (such as tendon or ligament injuries/broken legs/pelvic fractures/spinal cord injuries etc).  This represents approximately 367 horses.

16% died suddenly due primarily to cardiopulmonary lesions (possibly cardiac failure/pulmonary failure/pulmonary haemorrhage/blood vessel rupture). Approximately 86 horses examined by post-mortem died spontaneously.

4% died following an injection (possibly IV injection/performance-enhancing compound/anaphalactic shock).  Approximately 22 of the 539 horses were killed by an injection.

Of the 963 horses in the ORC database, post-mortems were not completed for about 424 of them, since presumably this was not a requirement by ORC rules.  The cause-of-death is unknown,  but they will not be forgotten.

The fact that these injuries and deaths occur are not surprising – the suffering of these and many other racehorses represents all that is detrimental to their welfare. Studies that break down the injuries and deaths are always useful for showing how healthy horses are pushed beyond their physical capabilities.  Since the profit motive is priority, horses are drugged so they can race while injured and physically compromised. Naturally,  these statistics do not include any horses who died or were euthanized outside of the 60 day window established by the ORC or were sent to slaughter at any point after their racing career ended.  The database reflects the fact that the approximately 74 horses who died each year in Ontario alone were only those that were required to be reported to the ORC according to the regulations noted above.

The racing industry promotes false imagery of race horses retiring to lives of luxury as pets, well-cared-for riding horses, or studs. While some race horses find good homes, the vast majority are slaughtered for meat even though virtually all of them contain veterinary drug residues prohibited by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

 

Eight Belles suffered compound fractures of both front ankles at the 2008 Kentucky Derby and was euthanized immediately. At just over 3 years old, she was far too young to be racing.

The Science Is In: Exposure To Bute In Horsemeat Still A Big Problem

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Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

Phenylbutazone or “bute” was at one time marketed for humans use under the trade name of Butazolidin.  It was a Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory (NSAID) used for arthritis and other inflammatory ailments that worked by inhibiting an enzyme that synthesizes chemical mediators called prostaglandins.  It was ultimately withdrawn by the FDA for causing a wide range of serious side-effects.  It remains however, on the market for treatment for horses and is an effective anti-inflammatory.  It is also prohibited in the food chain as residues of bute and its metabolite, oxyphenbutazone are not known to have safe limits.  None of this is new information to experienced horse advocates.  Therefore, it’s always personally surprising to me when I come across another horse advocate who takes the position that we needn’t be concerned about bute adulteration in food. It’s a pretty rare position to take, IMO, and reaffirms  to me that not all champions of the horse are on the same page when it comes to advocacy. This position not only harms our advocacy,  it’s also scientifically illiterate IMO.

Writing in a recent blog post, Founder and President of the Equine Rescue Network Janine Jacques goes all-in and on the record as being in doubt that bute is harmful to people.  Jacques also assumes that the only possible toxic result from consuming bute or metabolites can be aplastic anemia.

How did the consumption of over 16 million pounds of horsemeat impact the health of those who consumed horse meat tainted with bute? ~ If Google search deaths from phenylbutazone you will find no relevant deaths for humans.”  

While investigation and surveillance of overdoses and poisonings by phenylbutazone are available, there is a tendency to believe that, in order to be hazardous to health, only large amounts of a chemical are needed to cause poisoning. This is not necessarily so. A highly toxic chemical can have a low health hazard if it is used with proper precautions and care. On the other hand, it is possible that a chemical of low toxicity may present a high health hazard if it is used inappropriately, such as in the food supply.  The domain of published works in the field of toxicology contain many presuppositions such as this; regulators have always had difficulty establishing acceptable levels of chemicals and they are expected to show evidence that a level of exposure is harmful before they can ban its use.

Virtually all evidence we have about harmful dosages of drugs come from animals where extrapolations are made from high doses (LD50, Draize, and ADME – Absorption, Distribution, Metabolism, and Excretion tests for example) .  It is also said that effects found in animals in relatively short-lived species cannot necessarily be used to estimate the effects in a long-lived species such as human.  Humans live much longer than most of the species used for drug testing, so we have a longer period of time in which to manifest disease.  Compounding this, we know that much of human disease is idiopathic in nature – without known causes.  Forensic toxicology testing can detect drugs in the blood stream or urine and overdoses in the emergency room, but it can’t predict the cause of idiopathic disease.

What makes chemicals poisonous?

There are several factors which can influence the degree of poisoning caused by a chemical.

  • Route of entry into the body – orally, inhalation, etc
  • Amount or dose entering the body
  • Chemicals that are weakly toxic require large doses to cause poisoning, Strongly toxic chemicals only need small doses to cause poisoning
  • Chemicals that are broken down by the body into sub-products before being excreted may be more or less toxic than the original chemical
  • Biological variation in the person consuming the chemical/drug determines response – slow metabolizers may be affected in addition to those who have susceptibility to phenylbutazone due to different metabolic genes (polymorphisms) that encode enzymes that are involved in the metabolism of drugs.People who are poor metabolizers of a drug may overdose while taking less than the recommended dose. Altered or enhanced drug metabolisms in individuals have been known to cause fatal drug reactions.

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Another layer of complexity is added when humans are exposed to chemicals at very low doses – the chemicals may reside in certain regions of the body that are more susceptible to organ damage  which is impossible to measure directly.  Studies have shown that many chemicals impact cancer-causing pathways at low doses. Taken directly, phenylbutazone is associated with various hematologic disorders, including aplastic anemia. Bute is also a cause of agranulocytosis, which can also be fatal. Hypersensitivity reactions can include anaphylactic shock, arthralgia, fever, angiitis (polyarteritis), vasculitis, serum sickness, adenitis, hepatotoxicity, allergic alveolitis, lymphadenopathy, Lyell’s syndrome, activation of systemic lupus erythematosus, and aggravation of temporal arteritis in patients with polymyalgia rheumatica. Asthma may be precipitated or aggravated by phenylbutazone, especially in aspirin sensitive patients. We also know that phenylbutazone interacts with many other drugs.  When administered to lactating cows, it was found that phenylbutazone was distributed into their milk.

When the drug was used therapeutically in humans as Butazolidin, the dose rate would have been around 2 to 6 mg/kg, similar to the current dose for the horse of 4.4 mg/kg. The question is whether the presence of bute in horsemeat can present a risk to human health even in small amounts.  Around the time of the 2013 horse meat adulteration scandal in the EU, the highest amount of bute found in a horse carcass was 1.9 mg.  If a human had been taking Butazolidin in the 50s, they might have taken 200-400 mg a day in total, if we compare it to the current-day dosage of Tylenol or Advil.  Obviously, we would have to consume a significant amount of contaminated horsemeat in order to reach the level of a therapeutic drug dosage. What is not clear, despite reassurances, is the level that is necessary for the average person to consume in order to experience a toxic effect.  If a therapeutic dose of Butazolidin was once considered “safe” at 200-400 mg, then how do we know that some individuals are safe at 1.9 mg?  If Butazolidin was withdrawn from the market as being unsafe for some people at that dosage, we don’t know whether sensitive individuals may have experienced toxicity at lower levels as well.

If it still seems as though a negligible trace of bute in meat might not be enough to cause harm,  there is an analogous cautionary tale of another NSAID – diclofenac, which was also used in human medicine for decades,  and was recently introduced for veterinary use in India.  Obviously, the dynamics are not the same, but vultures appear to have been exposed to the drug while scavenging livestock carcasses, their main food source, and this has accounted for death by renal failure of many vultures examined in a three-year study by the scientific journal Nature.  Further investigation showed tissue residues in livestock treated at the labelled dose rate were sufficient to cause death in vultures. These findings confirmed that diclofenac is the primary cause of the Asian vulture decline.

“Diclofenac is toxic to vultures even in small doses, causing kidney failure. That results in uric acid accumulating in the birds’ blood and crystallizing around their internal organs—a condition called visceral gout.”

Food safety laws are clear.  Companies that produce, trade or sell food or food ingredients are legally obligated to implement a quality assurance system called Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP), which maximizes food safety by minimizing chemical, physical and microbiological hazards.  There is something wrong with a food system whereby the food animal must sit on a feedlot for six months in order that veterinary drugs “degrade” before it can be eaten.

For years, regulators relied on the old adage “the dose makes the poison, which still holds true for many drugs and chemicals.  But one key message there is that source or origin of a chemical usually tells you very little if anything about its toxicity or ability to cause harm.   We now live in a time where exposure to chemicals is unavoidable and we can’t evaluate these chemicals in isolation.  Having said that, bute is not a chemical that is ubiquitous in the environment like other toxins we are exposed to – we can avoid it by not eating horsemeat and not killing horses for food.  In the final analysis, no one is really in a position to make broad statements about the safety of horse meat.  Conrad Brunk,  the co-chair of the 2001 Royal Society of Canada Expert Panel on the Future of Food Biotechnology, wrote that:

“When it comes to human and environmental safety there should be clear evidence of the absence of risks;  the mere absence of evidence is not enough.”  This is the essence of the Precautionary Principle, which states that “when an activity raises threats of harm to human health or the environment,  precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause-and-effect relationships are not fully established scientifically.” The toxicity of a chemical cannot be changed, but the hazard it presents can be controlled.

Have Your Say In The “Safe Food For Canadians” Public Consultation!

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wall2Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

“The increasingly global marketplace for food commodities has created more opportunities for the introduction and spread of contaminants that may put Canadian food safety at risk. Food-borne illness continues to impose significant health and economic costs on Canadians and recent food safety incidents in Canada have demonstrated where the current federal food regulatory framework must be strengthened.” ~ Canadian Food Inspection Agency

The Government of Canada has recently launched a public consultation on new rules to strengthen food safety – the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations. The proposed regulations are supposed to better identify and manage food safety risks before products are sold to consumers. As members of the public, we are stakeholders in this process and entitled to send comments on the proposed regulations.  I’ll be writing to Dr. Arsenault (contact info below) and each of us should take this opportunity to give input.  The consultation process closes on April 21, 2017, so we need to get our letters written before then. If you would like background reading on this consultation process, here are some links:

What topics should you address?  Here are a sampling of issues that are derived from recent events and longstanding issues that have been identified by horse advocates and advocacy groups:

  • The presence of drugs in meat (the CFIA refers to these as “non-food agents”) and the low testing rate of carcasses.  Focus should be testing kidneys and liver rather than skeletal muscle.  Carcasses must be held until all laboratory results are received.
  • Transport issues – horses can remain in transport for up to 36 hours with no food, water, or rest. Transport guidelines, such as they are, do not reflect current science regarding theb1f handling of animals by land, sea, and air.  Late term pregnant mares are sent to auctions and subsequently to slaughter, and sometimes foals are born in transit (this information was obtained through CHDC Access-To-Information documents).  Were any penalties meted out to the transgressors?
  • Live shipment of horses not following IATA regulations
  • No traceability.  Horse owners will not pay for a system to track horses from cradle to grave in order to satisfy a food safety requirement.  The fact that no group in Canada – neither Equestrian Canada  or  Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) has so far developed a workable system for horses is a testament to how unworkable such a system would be.  Horses are not food.
  • In June 2016, a butcher shop in Montreal was caught adding horsemeat to hamburger patties advertised as being entirely made of beef. An investigation by Radio-Canada (and not the CFIA) found the meat sourced from La Maison du Rôti, which supplied many hotels and commercial establishments in Montreal, advertised as being 100 per cent beef.  This is consistent with a study from 2015 that found that nearly 5% of all ground meat products tested in California had horse meat in the product.  What did the CFIA do to address this adulteration? It does not appear that the company was ever fined or had their operations suspended – if not, why not?
  • Wild horses ending up in the food supply – in 2014, 3 wildies from the Williams Creek cull were sent to the Bouvry plant.  Complaints to the CFIA resulted in an investigation, because a permit holder cannot determine if he has captured a truly wild horse, or a barn yard escapee. The CFIA, concluded that Bouvry did slaughter two of the Wildies, and that a kill buyer purchased the horses from the permit holder without having the required 6 month history as required by the EID (Equine Information Document). The third horse could not be verified (lack of traceability once again).  If punishment has not been meted-out against these two individuals, ask the CFIA why?  How will the CFIA prevent this from happening in future?
  • Native owned horses in British Columbia are rounded up and sent to slaughter periodically despite roaming free on private land and being unaccounted for during much of the year.
  • I do not wish to throw any animals under the bus, but unlike “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.  EIDs do not sufficiently identify horses who look similar and it cannot differentiate between them with any degree of certainty.  Once again, any form that only asks for voluntary declaration of drugs is unlikely to be complied with when the seller wishes to profit from the sale of that horse.
  • EIDs (Equine Information Documents) are property of slaughterhouses.  Some EID forms are even branded with the name of the slaughterhouse and not the CFIA.  This is a food safety issue and should not be 1569ba4db68ad332267e02f5e74bd3badecentralized to the slaughterhouse – the CFIA needs to exert control over EIDs and publish the results of audits in the interest of transparency.
  • The recent and well-publicized  cases of missing horses Sargon and Apollo (Sargon was sold to slaughter by someone other than his legal owner).  Urge the CFIA to take action against false statements made on EIDs and to report the results of audits to satisfy public interest.  Send them information on the impact on victims of stolen horses.
  • EIA (Equine Infectious Anemia) has now appeared in Quebec after a years-long  absence.  Are the presence of slaughterhouses in Massueville and Saint-André-Avellin, in Quebec risk factors?  Private owners of horses are required to have a Coggins test when moving practically everywhere, but slaughter-bound horses are not.  Now that there is an expectation by the EU that American horses will need to reside in Canada for six months prior to slaughter, you may feel that this residency requirement increases the risk of disease transmission in Canada.  Do you feel that slaughterbound horses from the US should require a Coggins?  Why should slaughter haulers be allowed to evade what amounts to a biosecurity issue for every place they travel through, since Equine Infectious Anemia is incurable and biting insects the principal vector? We live in an era where animals are hauled long distances and to’from different countries – large numbers of unvaccinated and untested animals are coming into Canada. This is surely a threat to any responsible horse owner and this law could be easily changed though the slaughter buyers would have to bear the costs (as everyone else already does) when purchasing and transporting a horse for any purpose.

 

Call To Action:

Write now to Dr. Richard Arsenault before April 21st!

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Contact

Richard Arsenault
Executive Director
Domestic Food Safety Systems and Meat Hygiene Directorate
Canadian Food Inspection Agency
1400 Merivale Road, Tower 1
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0Y9
Telephone: 613-773-6156
Email: CFIA-Modernisation-ACIA@inspection.gc.ca

 

 

Leave The Donkey Milk To The Donkeys – Advertising Standards Canada Responds To My Complaint

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donkeyWritten by:  Heather Clemenceau

Advertisements have a huge influence on people. So it follows that advertisers must be careful about what they display to the audience in ad copy and on websites. Despite the number of laws to curb misleading advertisements to protect consumer interests, the public is often left to fend for themselves in the marketplace.

A few months ago I complained to Advertising Standards Canada about “exuberant” claims made about a donkey milk skin cream and soap, whose website suggested that the products “slow down the aging process,”  among other dubious claims.

The first red flag I saw when I began reading the claims on the Shamâne website was the logical fallacy of the “appeal to antiquity”– claiming that something has powerful properties because some ancient civilization used it. The fact that ancient Egyptians used donkey milk (if indeed they actually did) is irrelevant to the claim that the products are clinically effective, and we can’t determine whether something is good or bad just because it has ancient origins. Treating disease by ingesting animal feces or applying it to your skin is also an ancient remedy (that also helps to ward off bad spirits!), but I don’t see that catching on in the same way. We’re smarter now – we would not likely treat nosebleeds or cataracts with warm dung!

Now, in my opinion, there is absolutely no way that donkey milk was used in Europe during the Dark Ages for its anti-bacterial or disease curing properties. The germ theory of medicine was not developed at the time, and was not used clinically until about 1870, so the fact that a French naturalist supposedly used it in the 1700s is not proof of anything.  But let’s say we give the company the benefit of the doubt and say that donkey milk was used throughout the Dark Ages in Europe for its anti-bacterial properties. When you think “anti-bacterial” do you really think of the Dark Ages as a good example?  Back then, everyone pretty much had a life expectancy of around 30 years, so clearly whatever they knew wasn’t helping them much.  The whole of the modern argument by Shamâne rests on anecdotal evidence made by people who lived anywhere from 460 BC – 1804 (Hippocrates and Buffon, the French naturalist). The second they bring up modern research, though, they become vague and non-specific. Why not say “in recent years, researchers at Harvard have shown that…” or something like that? The reason is simple. There actually isn’t any modern research that supports the claims. There are lots of proposed anti-aging remedies, but as far as I know, no treatment has yet been proven to slow the aging process or extend the human lifespan.  People can and do find anecdotal evidence to support any product, even a harmful one. And studies are only useful if the methods are valid and the results have been reviewed (and hopefully replicated).

The real problems I have with products with donkey milk in them is the exaggeration of their effects and the use of an animal product that has no business being added. If the only claim that proponents of the product made was “this smells good, and makes your skin soft” (and it doesn’t harm any animals in the process) I wouldn’t be writing this at all. That’s not the case, though. The benefits of donkey milk cream and soap are exaggerated because exaggeration sells.

So……….Advertising Standards Canada wrote back to me:

“We carefully reviewed the advertising in light of your concerns and contacted the advertiser for additional information. We were informed by the advertiser that being from France, he was not completely aware of the Canadian regulations regarding Skin Care Non-Therapeutic Claims. However, the advertiser informed ASC that it would like to be in compliance with the Guidelines for Non-prescription and Cosmetic Industry Regarding Non-therapeutic Advertising and Labelling Claims and is ready to amend its advertisement accordingly. We have been working actively with the advertiser and provided assistance on how to appropriately amend its advertising to comply with these guidelines. We will keep you informed as soon as the advertisement in question is appropriately amended. “

So ASC made them remove the claim about “slowing down the aging process,” (it’s now gone from the website). Unfortunately,  I wasn’t able to get all the other dubious claims removed,  pinocchio-noseand I wrote back to ASC to ask why it was OK to claim a product was hypo-allergenic without providing proof, they replied with this qualificaton from the government’s consumer product safety guidelines:

“’Hypoallergenic’ is neither a legal nor a scientific term. It simply means that the manufacturer has chosen ingredients to produce a finished product with minimum potential for causing allergy. This does not guarantee that the product will not cause an allergic reaction in some individuals, since people are allergic to a wide range of substances. There are no non-allergenic cosmetics. If you experience an allergic reaction to a cosmetic, try switching to a different brand.”

I’m still unsatisfied with this response,  because it basically means that anyone can claim their product is hypo-allergenic without evidence. Nobody knows whether the ingredients in these products truly reduce the potential for reactions.

Why do I think going after these product claims is important?  By not reporting suspect advertising claims, you allow businesses to continue profiting by misleading consumers with their exultant language, whether on purpose or by accident. Even if you were not fooled by a misleading advertisement, reporting false claims may prevent other people from being misled. Even though this is “just” a skin cream/soap, know that suspect claims devalue legitimate products, in particular, those with plant-based ingredients which demonstrate some efficacy and don’t require any animal breeding or suffering.

 

Canadian Horses Being Served Up In Exclusive, Members-Only “Supper Clubs” in Japan

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Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

Hat Tip:  Lisa

In Japan, “premium consumption,” a philosophy in which consumers do not mind spending large amounts of money on trendy products or services, is on the increase.  The Japanese are embracing “members-only” clubs and resorts to the tune of ¥355 billion ($4,176,200,000 CDN), up 13 percent from 2015.  Horsemeat is increasing in popularity in Japan due in part to a boom in sushi restaurants and exclusive dining clubs, and is sold as sakura nikku (cherry blossom meat) or raw as basashi.

3db52bea97fbff03b135df5fdd9c5da3The English language paper The Japan News, provides a first look at these exclusive and often very secretive restaurants serving what must be our Canadian draft horses, who are live exported almost every week on 16-18 hour flights during which time they are neither fed nor watered, generally by Atlas Air. Prior to shipment to Japan, our “gentle giants” are fattened up to gross proportions, and at risk for laminitis. Each horse is worth approximately $20,000 CDN.

In Tokyo, The Roast Horse is a members-only restaurant that has a set course menu of ¥7,500 ($88.00 CDN). The Roast Horse solicited its clientele via crowdfunding to collect money for a custom-made stone oven. The restaurant was able to generate about ¥6 million ($70,000 CDN). Membership at the restaurant is considered a privilege for the investors.

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Photo from an Acess-To-Information Request by the CHDC. We know that horses are dying while enroute to Japan, where horsemeat is preferred “fresh,”  hence the live export.  These flights are illegal as Canada is in breach of two sections of our own Health of Animals Regulations and IATA Live Animals Regulations.

“As the door opened, all 30 or so seats in the restaurant were occupied. Owner Mineyoshi Hirayama was serving customers a series of horse-based dishes, such as raw and roasted horse meat, while describing the details of the horseflesh he bought and the cooking methods. “What’s great about this restaurant is that it is exclusively members who can book a table. What’s more, we can taste horse meat that can’t be eaten at any other places,” said information technology journalist Masakazu Honda, who is a member. “All the people I have brought here have been delighted. This is a special restaurant.”

Please read more here.

If you’re not familiar with the entire sordid live horse export business to Japan,  please read the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition’s comprehensive investigative report here.

 

Call To Action:

Please sign and share the active petition to Atlas Air to end the horrid practice of live export to Japan.

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