When Dr. Enoch Omololu began to show case studies of animal abuse on Manitoba farms, he assured the University of Manitoba agriculture students he was showing them “middle of the road” cases.
“These are not the very worst ones we’ve seen,” the provincial livestock animal welfare veterinarian said. Even so, the images in his presentation were unsettling.
In the first case study, the investigation found 25 cattle on the farm that died of starvation or neglect (out of a herd of 50). The farmer was found guilty resulting in a lifetime ban from owning or caring for cattle.
The second case study found 11 cattle carcasses on a farm with 660 head of cattle. The farmer was fined $6,000 and was ordered to submit monthly reports on the condition of cattle in his care for the next year.
The third case found six horses dead from starvation or neglect on the property and five horses with thin body condition. The five remaining horses were seized; the owner was ordered to pay a fine of $25,500 and received a lifetime prohibition from owning horses and a five-year prohibition of ownership of animals except for cats and dogs that were in the care of his children.
The final case study investigation found 50+ pigs that died of starvation (he owned 700 pigs). The owner fled Manitoba to set up his farming operation in B.C. But he was fined $3,264 and was prohibited from owning any animal in Manitoba for three years.
Omololu works as the livestock animal welfare veterinarian for Manitoba Agriculture and Resource Development. He oversees more than 80 animal protection officers (APOs) who enforce the Animal Care Act across the province.
On March 12, he gave a virtual presentation to University of Manitoba agriculture students and members of the agricultural industry to shine a light on the regulations included in the act, and to outline the investigative and enforcement practices of the province’s APOs.
The Animal Care Act is designed to protect the welfare of domestic animals in the province. It is the legislation in Manitoba that relates to the provision of care to livestock animals and defines the duties of the owners.
“So basically what that means is, if you own a dog, a companion animal, pets or livestock animals, all those species are protected on the Animal Care Act with regards to the level of care they must receive,” said Omololu.
Focusing on agricultural practices, Omololu went through some of the pertinent sections of the Animal Care Act. It’s largely what would be expected — for instance making sure that the animal has adequate food and water and that they are kept in safe, sanitary conditions and to ensure that no serious injury or harm is inflicted upon the animal.
Of course, in agriculture there will be times when the animals under a farmer’s care must undergo things that are unpleasant, so there are “accepted practices” that cover agricultural uses of animals. Examples of some accepted practices might include castration, dehorning, or vaccination.
There are also specific guidelines for transporting animals. Section 5.1(1) of the act states that, “no person shall load or transport an animal, or permit an animal to be loaded or transported, in a vehicle if, by reason of infirmity, illness, injury, fatigue or any other cause, the animal is unable to stand or would suffer unduly during transport.”
Enforcement of the act relies on a complaints line to begin an investigation.
“What that means is we only send out animal protection officers to conduct inspections when we receive complaints from the public. So if someone sees an animal being abused or suspects it is abused, they call the toll-free number or email [email protected],” he said.
The toll-free number is 1-888-945-8001. From there, the complaint is assessed to see if it has merit. If it has merit an investigation will be launched and an APO will be assigned.
The complainant is not provided with results of the inspection and their name and contact information are kept confidential from the public, the person being inspected and the APO performing the inspection.