by KRISTIAN PARTINGTON
It’s been more than a year since livestock trucker and farmer Frank DeBoer challenged the decision of a veterinary inspector to euthanize a lame cow at the Hagersville Livestock Auction Barn near Cayuga.
Earlier this month a Justice of the Peace at the Ontario Court of Justice in Cayuga found DeBoer guilty of one count under the Livestock Community Sales Act for obstructing an inspector in the course of duty. The livestock trucker must now pay a fine of $800 plus a victim fine surcharge of $125.
A provincial news release indicates that DeBoer prevented a veterinary inspector from euthanizing a lame cow that was not medically fit to be transported without undue suffering.
David Honey, president of the Niagara Landowners Association, which has been advocating on DeBoer’s behalf, says that despite the inspector’s assertion the cow was unfit for humane transport it managed to avoid harness before running from its pen when the gate was opened. Honey maintains the animal was fit for transport and simply needed a “pedicure.” It was later retuned to its owner and had its hoof trimmed. Ten days later it sold at auction without incident.
DeBoer could not be reached for comment.
Honey says DeBoer spoke on behalf of 16 other farmers on site who questioned the decision to euthanize the animal. DeBoer did not own the animal.
The case should never have reached the courts, Honey says. “All Frank was asking for was a second opinion and she (the inspector) wouldn’t give it to him.”
Honey says he’d like to see the Act changed to allow those who disagree with an inspector’s decision to appeal it on the spot in order to avoid unnecessary euthanasia.
Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Regulatory Compliance Unit Manager Rodger Dunlop says there are no intentions to make changes to the Act at this time.
As it stands, livestock handlers have no option but to “abide by the inspector’s decision.”
“One of the purposes of the Livestock Community Sales Act is to monitor the humane handling of livestock,” he says. “The ministry takes its responsibility under the Act seriously.”
Dunlop declined comment on the specifics of the DeBoer case, noting he wasn't there so he wouldn't speculate.
Honey says his association and others across the province will continue to oppose the power bestowed upon inspectors to make decisions without input from experienced livestock handlers.
“If someone wants to wrongfully seize and destroy your property,” he said, “you should have the right to stop them and question their motives.” BF