On Tuesday, November 6, 2018 one hundred eleven horses were conveyed by trucks to the Calgary International Airport where they were loaded in crates to await transport to Japan the following day. After a 2+ hour delay, the Korean Air Cargo 747 finally departed at 8:43 a.m. on Wednesday, November 7, 2018 with 109 horses on board. According to documents received through Access to Information, a 14 year old Belgian cross mare was removed due to weight restrictions. Another, a ten year old mare (#217), was euthanized after being found down in the crate and unable to stand on her own.
Willjill Farms Inc., St. Thomas, Ontario is listed as the owner.
All horses included in this shipment are described as a Belgian cross. Eighty-nine were born in 2017, twelve in 2016, one in 2015, one in 2010, one in 2007, two in 2006, two in 2005 and one in 2003.
Twenty-five crates contained four horses each.
141 (1) Subject to this section, no person shall load on any railway car, motor vehicle, aircraft or vessel and no carrier shall transport animals of different species or of substantially different weight or age unless those animals are segregated.
(8) Every equine over 14 hands in height shall be segregated from all other animals during transport by air.
According to the Load Description section of the Humane Transportation of Animals form, 109 ‘feeder’ horses were loaded at 18:45 on November 6, 2018. The average weight was 725 Kgs. While each crate held more than one horse, this non-compliance was not recorded; an explanation for disregarding section 141 (8) of the regulations was provided in the comments section on page 2:
On November 2 an endorsed Health Certificate was delivered following the examination of 132 horses who had been isolated since October 29, a condition for export to Japan. Several discrepancies were found on the Certificate including recording the incorrect gender of two horses. At the request of the AQS (Animal Quarantine Service, Japan), a letter of correction was issued on November 9.
Four photos of two misidentified horses were included in the release package. One sorrel Belgian cross mare (tag #812, DOB 2017) was recorded as a gelding on the Health Certificate while a brown Belgian cross gelding (tag #188, DOB 2005) was recorded as a mare. The location of the two horses when the included photographs were taken is unknown. Both horses appear sweaty and since the request for the letter of correction was made by authorities in Japan, it is possible they were taken subsequent to their arrival there.
The following timeline of events is provided on the Humane Transportation of Animals form 5663:
November 6 – at 6:45 p.m. 111 feeder horses began to be loaded into crates at the Calgary International Airport for export to Japan. The loading procedure was reported to be without incident.
November 7 – at 3:30 a.m. a CFIA inspector arrived at the airport and at 5 a.m. discovered one horse down in a crate. At 5:16 a.m. a CFIA veterinarian was called who arrived shortly thereafter. The veterinarian assessed the 10 year old mare and while there were no obvious injuries, stress and heavy breathing was noted. After ‘’enough rest’’ she was still unable to rise on her own and was humanely euthanized.
The time the crates were last checked prior to the discovery of the down horse is not provided and it`s unknown whether a necropsy was performed on the deceased horse.
Using the times given we are able to determine that the horses were confined without food or water for over 24 hours. However, this does not include the time taken to load the horses on trailers, their transport to the Calgary airport, or the unloading and transport to the quarantine station upon arrival in Japan.
This draft email was sent at 1:57 p.m. on November 7, while the flight was en route to Japan. It notes “Horse export to Japan is a high visibility issue that garners media attention” and may have been written in anticipation of the horse’s death becoming public knowledge.
All documents can be viewed here and appear as received, with portions exempted under sections 17, 19(1) and 20 (1)(c), of the Access to Information Act.