Nova Scotia Petition

I am not familiar with the rules and regulations in Nova Scotia, but it appears they are not enough to protect the horses or to punish those doing the abusing. 

http://www.change.org/en-CA/petitions/ns-agriculture-minister-the-honorable-keith-colwell-acting-minister-paul-lafleche-save-the-horses-of-breighmara-and-create-nova-scotian-legislation-protecting-equines

Thanks to Steph C for spreading the word.

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45 thoughts on “Nova Scotia Petition

  1. What I just don’t get, if it was really said, is the ‘justification’ that it’s ok because they’re ‘just livestock’.

    Since when was it ok to neglect, starve and cause suffering and distress to livestock? Since when was it o.k. just to burn carcasses without proper disposal?

    Is this for real in Nova Scotia??? Sounds like some third world backwater !

  2. I doubt that was said there have been horses removed in Nova Scotia… but like most places it take an awful lot to get it done.

  3. I guess rednecks can feel relieved, a boarding stable, ie, people paying money to keep their horses in that condition, is pretty unbelievable. Even Georgia law has more protection than that.

    • A link to the news report is up now in the comments section. Apparently actions are being taken at some level besides the petition. Spokesperson for the NS Department of Agriculture said there was ONE? complaint and they are investigating. The fact the RCMP has received complaints also suggests there’s a lack of infrastructure to handle these types of issues.

      • “Lack of infrastructure” could make some sense of how this situation was allowed to become so severe, but still… wow.

    • How do these ‘people paying money’ walk by the neglected horses? It baffles me how animal lovers flip a switch to ‘see no evil’. We had this situation in CT where the owner’s horses were underfed with zero shelter in mud-bog conditions and the boarders just walked on by. Like 100 horses, literally.

      • I have to respond because I was one of those people who walked by those magnificant horses and I am a huge animal lover. Oh, I would pet them and bring lots of carrots and bags of apples, but I had never understood the depths of their despair. I was never exposed to horses and felt that perhaps all horses were treated like this and for awhile I wasn’t even very fond of the entire horse community at large. Animal abusers can be really nice people who act like they really care. The owner would lovingly stroke and hug the horses. She told beautiful stories about most of them. She shared the horses little quirks with the parents of the riders. We all thought she really cared. When I asked questions about their skinniness, or about some of the horses being outside during freezing rain and winter storms, she always seem to have the right answer…oh, he’s just skinny because he had an infection and i’ve treated him with antibiotics, or it’s the heat, or that the horse had been previously abused and after she had rescued him and nursed him back from the brink. The ones left outside in the cold without blankets or rags hanging off them, apparently, were petrified of being in a stall. The horses ate, but i guess it was very minimal and a very low quality hay. The horses that were used for lessons, seemed to be in better condition then those that were lame or old. These horses were kept further from the barn. At the time I felt these people were more knowledgable then i was – and if no one else seemed to be distressed about the horses, then perhaps i was over reacting. I now understand that there were many complaints, but nothing moved forward without that one picture. There had always seemed to be disputes among the horse owners who would abscond during the night to get their horses to safety. I had already taken my daughter to another facility two years before things had gotten so much worse. There were lots of volunteers and people who cared who tried to help these horses. I’ve learned a very valuable lesson, one that will ensure I listen to my gut feelings about horse abuse and immediately step in and not wait for someone else to take over.

        Some people are not equipped to operate a business involving animals and it needs to stop…

        • Thank you for sharing your perspective, Kate. This is what I was talking about. Your instincts told her something was wrong but you didn’t have the horse knowlege to know how wrong, and you trusted in people who were supposed to know more than you. This is how things can get so bad. Anyone can recognize a starving animal but a non-horsey parent of a kid taking riding lessons isn’t going to understand more subtle problems – they end up growing to bigger problems that can no longer be swept under the rug.

  4. Wow, …all I can say is “wow”…. I don’t EVER sign petitions but I signed this one.

    Wow, the photo of the emaciated horse reminds me of concentration camp victims… Such cruelty and abuse… I don’t understand how boarders and riding lesson people could just turn a blind eye to the condition of the animals… wow… how did they justify it to themselves?? …sickening.

    It’s sad when common sense and the legal process can’t work together. I’ve heard that in some places if you can prove you provide any type of shelter, any amount of food, and any amount of water to the animal it is very hard to have the animals taken away. Apparently the failure to provide “adequate” amounts of food/water/shelter is not enough reason to deprive someone of their property. It should not be so hard to remove animals from a cruel, abusive situation.

    • I was curious why the woman interviewed had her horse there for (I think she said) 5 months and allowed it to get to skin and bones before pulling it out. Unless she’s like me and has her horses being cared for by someone else while she’s out of the country – difference being my horses are with really good friends, who are also excellent horsepeople and I do get regular updates/pictures etc…

      I was also curious why this situation has already been going on for an entire year. What are we waiting for?

      It is sad, as you say, when common sense and the legal process can’t work together. If that picture of the horse on the petition is from that facility, what exactly is the hold up folks?

    • You do realize that your previous comment about living in Nova Scotia for 20 years was just so wrong and not entirely true. Your comments about “Ignorance being rampant” and “animal welfare not being a top priority for people who don’t have enough” really offended me. The urban areas here in Nova Scotia are filled well-educated, well-to-do and middle class friendly, wonderful people. The rural areas, like any Province or State in North America has it’s share of “hillbillies”. We all own animals and love animals here. But, like anywhere, there are people either through substance-abuse or mental illness are not able to even care for themselves, let alone an animal.
      So many people here in this “backwater” do so much to protect animals from abuse. This case is unfortunate, but i’m sure Nova Scotians will come to the rescue of these horses and hopefully prevent this from happening again….

      • Don’t be offended by someone’s personal experience that simply doesn’t apply to you.

        Thank you for sharing your experience and also letting us know about the other side.

      • Kate, I was clear and specific that my comment did not apply to the entire horse community in Nova Scotia. There are lots of great horse people who don’t deserve to be judged by this situation. However, I wrote an article about horse abuse in Nova Scotia, after another high-profile abuse case, and discussed many of these same issues, which was published in the Halifax Daily News in 1999 or 2000 when I was a reporter there (that paper has closed down since and the article doesn’t seem to be online anymore). So it is disturbing to me to see that so little has changed in that all time.

  5. I lived in Nova Scotia for about 20 years. The petition is not quite correct. There is both provincial and federal legislation that prohibits cruelty to animals. However, as with everywhere in Canada, the legislation should be stronger.

    And within Canada, yes, Nova Scotia IS a bit of a backwater. It is one of the poorer provinces in Canada. Making a seizure of horses is extremely expensive, it is beyond the resources of many organizations even in more well-off parts of the world. I do not offer this as an excuse but more of an explanation. Animal welfare is never the top priority of people who did not have enough.

    When I lived there, ignorance was rampant, and it does not seems to have gotten that much better. This is not to generalize the entire horse community as there are many excellent horse owners, lots of Pony Clubbers who know their stuff, some great barns and trainers, in Nova Scotia. But for every great horse owner it would seem there was another one who thought that it was okay to have a horse on their rocky, barren property and that the horse is fine because it is eating the grass (never mind that said grass is sparse and half-dead – much of the land there is not suited to pasture at all). As difficult as it is for good horse owners to understand, there are people who genuinely do not know what a horse in good condition looks like; they’ve never seen a fit, shiny show horse in their lives to compare to. Throw in a harsh climate where horses have thick shaggy coats much of the year to disguise some of the weight loss, and horses have to get to the drastic, skin-and-bones stage before some people realize there’s a problem.

    But I am with Mercedes… there is lots of blame to go around here. As a boarding owner as soon as my horse started to lose even a little weight I’d be asking questions, and the issue wasn’t addressed right away, I’d be out of there long before things got that bad. Even some people were ignorant of the problem, there must have been *someone* at that barn who knew enough to know things weren’t right.

    • In this day and age of computers and the Internet, I’m not sure I can ever accept a plea of ignorance based on never having seen….sure there will be people of such poor resources that they don’t own a computer etc…, but then are those people really going to be able to afford the purchase of a horse to begin with? Perhaps, if someone just gives them a ‘pony for the kids’? I think I’d have to insist they’re stupid as well as poor. (I know the two are not mutually exclusive)

      I say that because…when I bought my Husky I’d never owned one before, so as a somewhat intelligent member of the species (I, at least lik,e to think so – I can soft or hard boil an egg with the help of an egg timer :-)), I extensively researched the breed BEFORE I even went to look at the puppies offered for sale to make sure the breed fit the environment I had to offer.

      • I actually agree with you… and Hoofhearted, in the sense that this level of ignorance is unforgiveable. But I really do believe there is more ignorance than deliberately cruelty. Yes of course people should research the needs of an animal before they get one. Yes of course people should research the needs of an animal before they get one. But many don’t. Many don’t bother doing any research before getting a dog or a cat, but it’s usually cheaper/easier to keep a dog or cat in good health than a horse, and more easily accomplished on the basic knowlege that Average Joe already has.

        The world is full of free and cheap horses; it’s easy to get one and end up over your head because you had no idea what you were getting into, without actually having ill intent, but it’s the horse that suffers. It’s a story we see played out over and over again.

        I have a few horsey connections back in NS so I will see if anyone knows more of the story.

  6. “there are people who genuinely do not know what a horse in good condition looks like; they’ve never seen a fit, shiny show horse in their lives to compare to. Throw in a harsh climate where horses have thick shaggy coats much of the year to disguise some of the weight loss, and horses have to get to the drastic, skin-and-bones stage before some people realize there’s a problem”

    What a load of garbage! They might choose not to realise but no-one gets to be that ignorant unless they chose to be terminally stupid.

    It’s incumbent on an owner to know a horse needs feeding and managing before they get it. If they can’t manage that they should be called to account and pay the penalty for causing suffering through neglect and abuse.

    • I was thinking the same thing, but I said it way nicer. 🙂

      At what point do we stop allowing our species to behave in such a ridiculous manner? I understand not everyone can be a genius, and I understand that even the less swift among us have gifts and talents, but really, I don’t think this is anything but a case of willful ignorance (or cruelty). It’s just not that hard to know that pet/livestock are dependent on us for their well-being and therefore BEFORE we acquire we need to make sure we understand how to look after it, how much that will cost, how many years of commitment are needed etc….

      I don’t get it. What the hell is wrong with people?

      • It’s your blog so you maybe need to be nice? Is your mother reading it 😉

        I can just rattle cages and drum up some posts for you. 🙂

      • I ditto the “What the hell is wrong with people?”

        A small part of my job is to re-home unwanted pets, breaks my heart when I see the conditions some of the animals have been kept in and the excuses the owners make for themselves.

      • It is easier now than ever to learn how to do anything whatsoever that one desires with the advent of the internet so I have next to no sympathy for these situations. With blogs as these, Youtube, and all the free, readily available reads on equine nutrition, no excuses for horses starving. I’ll go a step further to say the dirty words – common sense – that should guide anyone with an IQ higher than a tree stump to know when anything is starving – human, horse, dog…even a plant wilts a bit at a time before it turns stiff and brown. Yes, it’s easy to walk by a plant, it doesn’t exactly move around and beg for attention but a horse certainly will move, nicker, bite, paw and carry on to be noticed.

        I don’t know what’s wrong with people. Sure, some have severe depressive issues (hoarding) but that doesn’t excuse the friends and boarders who see the starving horses and do nothing. Who can do nothing and claim to love horses?

  7. I spoke with a friend in the horse community in that area and she believes this is a case mental illness. She said this barn used to be decent and there has been a slow deterioration over time with the owner seeming increasingly “not all there”. Continuing to take the horses to shows looking worse and worse. People would speak to her and she would seem not to understand that things were not okay.
    The post by Kate, above, is illustrative of what I was talking about regarding ignorance. I do not see any ill intent from Kate, but she didn’t know enough about horses and was placing her trust in people who are supposed to know more. She sensed something was wrong but when told things were okay didn’t have the background to know otherwise. That’s how things pass through the “horse is a little skinny” stage before people stop accepting the excuses.

    I was also told that the authorities employ the standard that so long as there was some hay and water being given to the horses, they could not step in. I have heard this about the SPCA in other areas previously, that they cannot seize as long as animals are still being cared for even if inadequately. This is something that needs to change.

    • Yes, that is the standard SPCA line I’ve often heard repeated. And if that’s the case, it must be changed. They, or someone else, need to have more authority.

      Having said that, local SPCA authorities have their own issues. When I managed the therapy barn I found a horse for the program through the SPCA. Part of the process was to have our facility examined for suitability, blah, blah, blah.

      The person they sent to do the review didn’t have nearly enough equine knowledge to be determining if our facility and the services we provided was adequate or not. And that was a huge disappointment. Indeed, some of the things she wanted changed about the facility were ridiculous. Such as: in one of the pastures there was an old, non-fruit bearing apple tree that the horses used as a scratching post. She was concerned that the horse in question, if she were turned out in that pasture, might eat too many apples and colic. I kid you not!

      • When I lived in NS I had a friend who was an SPCA investigator, he ended up quitting because he grew too upset over healthy, adoptable animals being euthanized for shortage of space and funds. That’s another big factor – even if the legal authority was in place to seize, who is going to pay for the rehab and care of those horses? If an organization already has to euthanize healthy animals because it can’t care for them, there is certainly no incentive to act aggressively to take in more (very expensive) mouths to feed.

        • It’s better that they’re humanely put down than neglected and abused.

          And don’t go misunderstanding me because I’m the last one to advocate putting down a healthy animal just because some low life has tired of it and has decided to discard it like an old toaster!

  8. I’m from NS as well and while I agree that there are some poor, uneducated, and traditionally minded folks, most love their horses and do all they can to make sure they’re happy and healthy. There are of course horses who could use an upgrade, although that’s not a situation unique to NS, nor is it typical.

    As for the petition, the author is misinformed. Her statement that, “these guidelines, however, are not law” is untrue – they are from a bill proposed in 2008 that was passed. Additionally, despite her suggestion that Breighmara gets away without charges is also untrue, the RCMP and the Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture are currently investigating the allegations.

    • Very interesting Jean. Got to say when I read it I couldn’t quite believe there wasn’t legislation in place to stop that sort of abuse. I thought it might be more of a case that the authorities either didn’t know or were slow to act.

      Do you know if the horses are still in current ownership and in that condition while the “investigation” is underway?

      Do you know how long will it be before they come to the conclusion that isn’t right?

      • Yep, and as mentioned by another poster, there was only one complaint made to the SPCA, at least prior to the story going ‘viral’.

        All of the boarded horses have been removed but the Breighmara horses are still on property. Water as well as hay have been donated and there are volunteers caring for the horses. There has been a vet on site as part of the investigation, so I would hope they’re being treated as well.

        I’ve no idea how long the investigation will take – no statements have been made since the story was picked up by the media about a week ago. I plan to contact the Department of Agriculture next week to inquire about the status of the investigation…

        • I’m always curious at the length of time it takes to ‘investigate’. If people are donating water and hay, and volunteers are caring for the horses….just how long does it take to ‘investigate’?! Isn’t it abundantly AND quickly clear that the owner can’t/won’t/isn’t taking care of the horses?

          Maybe they aren’t investigating at all, maybe they are trying to decide what to do under current laws?

          • There has been no more news coverage. I left a message with the Department of Agriculture but have not heard back yet. Will post when they respond.

          • I received the following email from the Department of Agriculture:

            Dear Jean,

            We have received your concern regarding the Breighmara horse facility. It is the responsibility of the Department of Agriculture to investigate complaints regarding farm animals and we take that responsibility very seriously. Every complaint we receive is investigated.

            The Animal Protection Act provides protection for all farm animals which includes horses. This legislation allows investigators to conduct ongoing inspections, lay charges, seize animals in distress, and provide immediate and appropriate care.

            Our animal welfare division has visited the facility on several occasions and are investigating. We have required certain changes to improve conditions at the facility and the changes are being implemented. We will continue to monitor the facility to ensure compliance. It is inappropriate to discuss details further as it is an active investigation, but be assured this issue will be resolved with the full protection of the horses being the prime consideration.

            Thank you for your concern about animal welfare.

            Best regards,
            Dr. Laura Ross DVM, B.Sc.

          • Blech!

            This is my problem…giving this facility a ‘second chance’ is a mistake, imo. It’s costing taxpayers money and resources to have this ‘ongoing investigation’….seriously, how long does it take to realize the facility and care are not up to snuff?!?!….and more money and resources to ‘babysit’ to make sure the changes are made, and then more money and resources to check up on them from now until the end of time. The whole time risking the health and soundness of the horses.

            Blech!

  9. I agree with you Mercedes. This is bullshit. Don’t hoarders have something crazy like a 90% chance of re-offending?

    I can’t imagine how the people who volunteered their time, donated hay, etc feel since their generosity essentially helped Cecile (the owner of Breighmara) keep her horses. Without their help, I doubt she would have been able to provide even the essentials during the initial investigation.

    Likely Cecile has a certain amount of time to make whatever changes the Department of Agriculture has demanded. I get the impression that once they are satisfied that she has made the requested changes, they will consider the situation resolved and cease to monitor Breighmara. No one in their right mind will go near the facility for boarding, training, lessons, etc., so who will report her the next time things start to fall apart and horses start starving to death?! This is a very, very bad situation made worse by the Department of Agriculture’s unwillingness to take appropriate action.

    • I would also like to know where is/what is the *punishment*?! Was a large fine levied? Is she having to do an educational program? Community service related to an animal shelter or some such?

      She’s been helped to continue on owning horses and running a horse facility, which she’s already proven to be unable to do.

      Why isn’t the penalty at least a fine AND being unable to own horse, or run a horse facility ever again? Why does she get to break the law and continue on her merry way? These are the questions that should be asked of the DOA.

      • There was no punishment because the person was never charged with a single thing. And don’t go saying its all the DOA’s fault because the DOA have been there a lot and never felt charges were remotely required.
        What do you mean helped to continue owning horses. Please!!!! The owner of this place spent 10 years taking in and rehabing rescues from the SPCA. Get your facts straight!

  10. I’ve been following this story too. To start with, the horse in the petition didn’t just lay down and die of abuse. While I agree that NS needs better protection for animals you aren’t doing the whole thing any favors by using shock value images that do not represent death by abuse. It is misleading. I too signed the petition in the beginning because I was appalled at seeing an image of a dead horse with the title ABUSED. But I later realized that animal did not just die that it got caught up in a wall. Now, you may have the average person looking at it believing that animal died of abuse but experienced horse people and vets that have nothing to do with that stable or the people there do not agree that particular animal died of abuse. I also found out that the owner of the stable was never charged with anything and that the rest of the animals there are in good condition. I have seen images of one older horse who I am told is about 28 that was pretty ribby, but he is far from starved and dying as the people promoting the “against” side of this story claim, To be frank, I have seen horses skinnier than that driving up a country road. If you want proper support from government and the public then you need to stop using shock value to get peoples attention. In the long run, it isn’t going to get you the results you are after as those in positions of authority see the actions as something different than based on facts.

    • “While I agree that NS needs better protection for animals…”

      There are laws to protect horses in NS. The person who started the petition, while well meaning, is misinformed. The issues are with the DOA, as it is their responsibility to enforce the laws protecting horses.

      “I also found out that the owner of the stable was never charged with anything and that the rest of the animals there are in good condition. I have seen images of one older horse who I am told is about 28 that was pretty ribby, but he is far from starved and dying as the people promoting the “against” side of this story claim,”

      I believe the horse pictured in the first link is the (now dead) 28 yr old that you’re referring to:






  11. I have read many places that say that horse that died was 38 – THIRTY EIGHT, not 28
    AND AGAIN!!!!! the horse in the petitition died because it got it’s leg caught in a wall. its plain as day! People aren’t blind. But good work using an image of a dead horse with shock value. Now I also saw on the facebook page you used to run that these horses were supposedly starving to death yet you TOLD PEOPLE NOT TO TAKE HAY THERE. Why? Because you said you would be helping the owner and that it would be better to let the horses starve. That alone tells everyone what kind of people were behind all of this media crap. If you cared about the animals that kind of absurd statement would never have been made. In fact it takes a sick person to say don’t help starving animals so that the owner “goes down”. it takes a sick person to say something like that! Do people seriously think a person would intentionally starve animals? in 99.9 percent of all cases reported in Canada and the US that is not the reason. You need to educate yourself before you get on here pretending you know everything. Have you ever even been to the stable in question? Do you know the owner?????

  12. A few points: The old horse Pepper was 24, as for the hay, on December 25th, someone gave them 10 round bales of haylage, above 25% humidity, horses need a special vaccine, which they didn’t have. Before this whole thing started in November, there were 21 horses on the property, today, only 7 are left. And yes the band is still going, 5 kids still take horse back riding lessons there. It is wrong to assume the owner was never charged, the investigation is not over.

  13. I board at this facility, the many horses you have pictured are all different horses. Trinity is still very alive and well. Rosie is fine, Dudley is fine. So please while your ahead quit your silly incantations.

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