The blind mare surely knew that her friend was close by as she sank her bony frame to the ground for the final time. For months in late 2010 they had tried to survive the creeping starvation by eating anything they could – tree trunks, posts and walls in the shed – whatever they could find that was remotely edible.
People in the neighbourhood had tried to help the two mares. Calls were placed to the London Humane Society (LHS), who came, investigated and left without taking any action. Sadly in December, it was too late for Cocoa as her life slipped from her in that cold, snow filled field in Southwest Middlesex, Ontario. Gem, her companion, no doubt sniffed at her lifeless body and silently mourned her friend’s passing.
The good neighbours had tried to help the only way they could by throwing hay over the fence. Perhaps Cocoa could not find her way to the hay due to her blindness or perhaps she was too weak at that point. Despite the neighbours’ attempts to assist by contacting the Humane Society to intervene, no one was there for them.
The neighbours that tried to help first noticed that things were going very wrong in November 2010. Gem and Cocoa were being kept in a small paddock where no food or water was ever seen. Their only shelter was a flimsy shed that they had partially eaten in a desperate attempt to stave off starvation. The neighbours saw them constantly pawing at the ground trying to dig up any remaining grass roots.
The neighbours had asked the owner if he had any hay. He simply said “NO”. They wanted to help and began throwing hay over the fence twice a day. But the days turned into weeks and the owner did not care or did not have the means to supply the hay himself.
Cocoa was extremely emaciated and blind in one eye. She was so relieved to see hay she couldn’t get enough. She had been slowly starving to death over the past few months. She was a walking skeleton.
One evening the neighbours noticed her lying down towards the back of the paddock. She tried to get up several times to come to feed and couldn’t find the strength to stand up.
Because of their concern for Gem and Cocoa the neighbours began making calls to the London Humane Society (LHS) on December 5th. The LHS is an affiliate of the Ontario SPCA. Their investigators are agents on behalf of the OSPCA as cruelty complaints fall under their auspices.
The neighbours left their phone number several times. Their concern intensified when a large snow storm was approaching. They knew that Cocoa would not likely survive as she continued to weaken and became immobilized in the field.
To these people’s dismay there was no response from the LHS to this life and death situation. Tragically, Cocoa froze to death in the snowstorm that night in the same spot she had laid for days. They called and left more messages, never once getting someone live on the phone at the LHS.
Finally after nine days, the LHS responded on December 14th. The situation was explained again to the investigator, and the response was for them to keep feeding the surviving horse over the fence, and that the LHS would inform them when to stop.
As the days progressed, they called the LHS again about Cocoa still lying dead in the field, and that still no hay was being fed by the owner to the surviving horse, Gem. The LHS returned their call and stated that they had visited the owner’s property that day. They said that they could do nothing about the dead horse but said they would take the other horse to foster care at another farm, to keep feeding Gem over the fence and they would inform them when to stop feeding.
The neighbours were somewhat relieved by this as they thought that the OSPCA affiliate was finally going to take action, but alas, this did not happen. What did happen was that more and more days passed by and still nothing happened – the situation remained unchanged.
In frustration, the neighbours directly approached the owner of the horses. The owner was not concerned that the LHS had been there and in fact said that the investigator had apologized for having bothered him!
The horses’ owner gave details:
*no orders were issued to provide food or water.(the only source of water was a completely frozen water trough, pictured here)
*no issues were ordered to have Gem’s hooves trimmed.
*no orders were given to address the hair loss on Gem’s face or to have a vet check her.
*nothing was mentioned about the very thin dogs left outside 24/7 with no food or water and one duck locked in a cage with no fresh water.
The only instructions given were the neighbours were to keep feeding the remaining horse and to keep monitoring the situation. No orders for the owner of the animals – only for the neighbours trying to help!
The owner was said to actually laugh to the neighbours and said “they’re just wannabe cops” and “…they weren’t here all of 3 minutes and apologized for bothering me!”
December 30th came and they were still feeding Gem over the fence and each time they had to look at poor Cocoa’s body still lying there.
Gem Rescued Without LHS/OSPCA Intervention
In an attempt to help save Gem the neighbours called a local horse rescuer who came out immediately. Together with the neighbours they pleaded with the owner to surrender Gem to them. Within minutes arrangements were made to remove Gem from the horrible conditions she was living in.
What OSPCA Promises and the Harsh Reality
From the OSPCA website: http://ontariospca.ca/5-faqs.shtml
What are the Ontario SPCA’s core values?
- The Ontario SPCA believes that:
- The Ontario SPCA must act to prevent cruelty and to encourage consideration for all animals.
- No animal should suffer.
- All animals should have a good quality of life and should be treated with compassion.
- The Society must advocate for improved animal welfare and protection.
- Those who abuse or neglect animals should be appropriately penalized.
- All animal welfare organizations should work cooperatively for the benefit of animals.
- The Society should set high standards for animal care, protection and shelter.
- The Society must educate the public on animal welfare.
- Dedicated and committed volunteers and staff are essential to the success of the Society.
- All those who contribute to the success of the Society deserve recognition and appreciation.
- The Society should serve the whole province.
Also: http://ontariospca.ca/5-faqs.shtml under OSPCA General Operations:
What is the structure of the Ontario SPCA?
Shelters: The Ontario SPCA is comprised of more than 50 Communities providing care and shelter for tens of thousands of animals each year.
Inspectors and Agents: The Society Inspectors and Agents, who investigate cases of animal cruelty and neglect, have the same powers as police officers when enforcing animal protection laws. Under the Ontario SPCA Act, first decreed in 1919, the Society may intervene directly to rescue animals at risk. This unique authority is both our privilege and our strength.
Anyone reading this, and knowing the suffering that Cocoa and Gem endured has to ask, if the OSPCA “is one of the largest, most responsive animal welfare organizations in the country providing care and shelter for tens of thousands of animals every year”, then why was this suffering allowed to continue and why didn’t the OSPCA/LHS “act to prevent cruelty” and “advocate for improved animal welfare and protection” in this case? These horses were betrayed not only by their owner but by the very agency mandated to protect them!
The Canadian Horse Defence Coalition (CHDC) has been contacted by people or involved in other similar animal cruelty and neglect situations. We’ve seen horses that have been starved and neglected yet, incredibly, the OSPCA did not intervene on the horses’ behalf.
Also, if a horse died as a result of starvation and neglect, charges were never laid against the owners, despite attempts with the OSPCA by concerned citizens to help bring justice to the horses and to prevent other animals from enduring the same fate. These documented incidents occurred in other regions of Ontario. The outcome was the same which indicates a systemic failure of the OSPCA to protect horses in life and death situations and a failure to punish people who’ve made the conscious choice to deny food, water, shelter and care for their animals.
Without caring people and animal welfare advocates outside of the official agencies that are supposed to protect animals in Ontario, Gem’s fate and others like her would surely end up the same as Cocoa – forgotten and neglected to their death.
The neighbours have stated to this writer that, “We have lost total faith in the OSPCA and we will never call them again to help, nor will we ever donate funds to them again because our money did not go to help these horses in desperate need”. Gem and Cocoa were failed by the only people who had the power to save them. The only help they received was instead from kind, caring citizens.
A small group of Gem’s fans pooled together and now she is in a brand new roomy box stall with straw up to her knees, good quality hay and fresh water. She is finally showing signs of renewed life, after an aggressive deworming program, good hay, grain, shelter and rest.
Subsequently, the Ministry of Environment was called out on December 21st to have the owners remove Cocoa’s body. No one was home so the MOE rep left his business card on the owner’s door. The MOE rep called the neighbours to tell them what steps he’d taken.
Not surprisingly, in light of all the circumstances surrounding this whole situation, the MOE never came back. On January 13th, 2011 Cocoa was still lying in the frozen field. The neighbours found it extremely upsetting to see her there simply discarded. Plus her body was a well contamination danger and an attraction for coyotes to come closer to their home and animals. Cocoa’s body was also in plain view to passers-by including small children. What kind of example for respect of life is this for small children?
The neighbours finally wrote a hand-delivered letter of concern to their local Councilor. He quickly acted on the situation and on January 14thCocoa’s body was at long last removed.
May she finally be at peace.
What Can You Do?
For information on how you can make a donation towards Gem’s rehabilitation, please visit Equine Adoption and Rehabilitation Farm at www.saveahorse.ca.
If you agree what happened to Cocoa and Gem is unacceptable, please make your voice heard, by contacting the OSPCA: http://ontariospca.ca/8-provincial.shtml
16586 Woodbine Avenue, RR 3
Newmarket, ON L3Y 4W1
Chief Executive Officer, Kate MacDonald
Chief Inspector, Connie Mallory
OSPCA Senior Management
- Kate MacDonald – CEO
- Tom Stephenson – CFO
- Jim Sykes – COO
- Connie Mallory – Chief Inspector
- Tanya Firmage – Director of Animal Care
- Craig Mabee – Director of Development
- Rosaline Ryan – Director of Marketing and Communications
- Debbie Schepens – Director of Human Resources
OSPCA Board of Directors
- Arthur King
- Bonnie Deeken
- Catherine MacNeill
- Jean Belfour (Secretary)
- Kari Wilson (Vice Chair)
- Lynn Michaud
- Melanie Coulter (Treasurer)
- Rob Godfrey (Chair)
- Stewart Hill
You can also contact:
London Humane Society (Affiliate)
624 Clarke Road
London, ON N5V 3K5
Support Resolution to Bring OSPCA Under Provincial Oversight
On June 1, 2010, at Queen’s Park, Newmarket-Aurora MPP Frank Klees tabled a resolution in the Ontario Legislature that if adopted, will bring the OSPCA under provincial oversight:
A Petition can be downloaded to help gather signatures: Please feel free to download petition here
“That, in the opinion of this House, the Ontario Legislature call on the Government of Ontario to review the powers and authority granted to the OSPCA under the OSPCA Act and to make the necessary legislative changes to bring those powers under the authority of the Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services to ensure that there is a clearly defined and effective provincial oversight of all animal shelter services in the province, and to separate the inspection and enforcement powers of the OSPCA from its functions as a charity providing animal shelter services.”
Your actions can help make a difference. Thank you for taking the time to contact the OSPCA to let them know how you feel about Cocoa and Gem’s treatment, and for showing support for MPP Klees’ resolution to bring the OSPCA under the authority of the Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services. If any case proves that sweeping changes are necessary at the OSPCA and their affiliated Humane Societies, it is this one.
For the horses,
Canadian Horse Defence Coalition