I have stayed away from this subject for a while, mostly because rehashing it is a painful experience for me, but recent news stories about the return of animals that were seized because of poor care and poor conditions has brought the subject to the forefront of my thoughts again.
Granted I do not know all of the details of this specific situation. What I do know is limited to what has been released in the media, and I do not delude myself that this coverage is even close to being balanced. That being said, there is not a doubt in my mind that the people that owned these animals that were seized never intended anything but the best for these animals. I know that there are many readers who will rail against this statement, asking how it is someone could care so much for animals yet let them die, starve, get sick, and live in horrible conditions. If you are relatively new to this blog please understand that I don't support this behaviour, but I do have a perspective that many individuals do not.
People, for the most part, do not own livestock because they want to be cruel to it. They own livestock because they have a love for the animals. It is easy to justify building up a large herd of animals justifying not reducing the herd size because prices aren't right or they are good for breeding stock, or any of dozens of other reasons. I herd all of these excuses from my partner as our horse herd grew out of control.
It is also easy for these people to draw friends and family into their beliefs, not because these people are so influential, but because they so strongly believe their l line of thought that they find ways to convince those around them of the same. Those they can't convince they simply erase from their lives. In my situation friends, family, and neighbours were all alienated.
Despite the good intentions towards the animals in their care problems inevitably arise. The animals reproduce creating more mouths to feed. Feed costs money. Lot's of money. Health care costs money. Shelter costs money. Unless they win the lottery something has to give. The unfortunate thing is these individuals believe so strongly they are doing the right thing that they will beg, borrow, and steal to just hold on a little while longer. They would rather take a chance on loosing their car, or their home, or more just to hang on to their animals. Meanwhile they justify in their own minds the decreasing level of care their animals are receiving and the decreasing condition of their animals.
In some of these cases, but not all of them, the SPCA steps in and seizes animals. I don't always agree with the methods used by the SPCA but the fact is they have a miserable, and often impossible job to do and you can be guaranteed that the people on the receiving end of their actions are usually far from cooperative. When it happened to us I was sure that had I not been there my spouse would have assaulted the officer. The sad fact is, when I tried to rectify the situation at a later date I was the one violently assaulted.
The part of these cases that is even more difficult to understand is that the individuals the animals are seized from have a chance to get these animals back. Yes there are conditions that they need to meet, and in the short term most do meet those conditions and somehow come up with the funds required to get their animals back. This is my understanding of what is happening in the cause currently going on in Alberta, and I think this is why I find this topic occupying my thoughts again.
The unfortunate part of this is that all too often things get bad again, often sooner than later, but the people involved find ways to conceal it from everyone. In my case my spouse found ways to split up her herd and locations where the animals could not be found. She had told me before assaulting me and leaving me living in the streets that her own lawyer had told her she could transfer ownership of the horses to a friend for a buck so the SPCA could not go after her for having the animals (though how she could sell or transfer horses branded with a co-owned brand without my permission is beyond me.) In the end all of the horses “disappeared” and where the SPCA's court case against ended up I have no idea.
Is this what will happen with the animals being returned to the ranch near Drumheller? I do not know. I would only be guessing at the answer to that question. I do think that if you look at the stories and histories of people who hoard animals the story is often the same as mine. Animals lives are destroyed. Families are destroyed. People are devastated. All this horror and sorrow based on good intentions.
What can we do about it? Sadly nothing.
Trust me. Unless an animal hoarder makes the decision to seek help themselves there is absolutely nothing we can do to help them. My horses disappeared with my spouse after she was charged with assault. I expect she is somewhere with her herd of curly horses to(and whatever other horses she has acquired) and most likely in the same situation she was in before, animals suffering, bills piling up, lives falling apart. The difference now is she just knows how to hide it better.
We need to find a way to empower those charged with the responsibility to take the actions needed in these situations. We need to find a way to help those who need the help. We need to be a real friend and point out the problem to people creating these situations, not find ways to support them or justify what they are doing.
I sincerely hope that my reality (and the reality of many others who have found themselves in similar circumstances) does not become the reality of the animals being returned to Drumheller. I wish the ranch owners nothing but luck with their enterprise, but please, please, encourage and listen to advice from others around you and don't let lives, animals and yours, be destroyed by your love for your animals.