About 12 horses remain on the property south of East Coulee where Alberta SPCA members spent last week rounding up horses and cattle after they discovered over 300 were malnourished. The ASPCA has now left the ranch.
Complaints of stray animals led the ASPCA to the property of John Barry Graham, who was serving a 10 year livestock prohibition. They found 148 horses and about 200 head of cattle in need of veterinary care and in severely malnourished states.
The 136 horses and 200 cattle seized from the 11,000 acre property are now at Bow Slope Auction Mart in Brooks where they’ll be assessed by Wheatley and a veterinarian.
“We’ll be doing an overall assessment of the health of the animals and see if any need specialized care,” said Wheatley, adding Graham has a 10 day period to make an application to claim the animals.
Wheatley said there are certain requirements that have to be met in order for Graham to retrieve them, and also the prohibition is still in effect.
“We are going to be having a meeting with the family on Wednesday,” he said. “We will definitely be discussing the future of the horses and everything that has to be taken into consideration. I’m certainly not saying it will be approved.”
Charges are being contemplated at this time, but Wheatley said there will be charges under the Animal Protection Act and Criminal Code. Under the Criminal Code, charges to be discussed will be the breach of prohibition order, which was put in place in December 2002. Under the Animal Protection Act, the ASPCA will consider the charges: allowing animals to be in distress, not providing adequate feed – mirrored charges for both the cattle and horses.
The ASPCA has six months to present their charges to the Crown, but Wheatley said it’ll be “done a lot sooner than that.”
Graham pled guilty in front of a Drumheller court in 2002 and paid a $10,000 fine under charges of Alberta’s Animal Protection Act and Alberta’s Stray Animals Act.
The ASPCA found numerous carcasses of dead horses and many horses and cattle in poor condition at his property in January of that year. SPCA officers found no signs of regular feeding, and pathology reports on the dead horses revealed that many had suffered from starvation and heavy parasite infestations.
Over the following weeks, despite being given instructions by the ASPCA, Graham did not provide proper care for his remaining livestock, the Strathmore Standard reported at the time.
In March of 2002, the ASPCA found 47 of his cattle in distress and the animals were seized.
Wheatley says the long, cold winter farmers in Alberta faced this year is no reason for an individual to fail to provide proper hydration and food for animals in their care.
“We all faced the same winter, and everyone with livestock has a requirement on them to provide food and water. We haven’t run into this situation in other places,” he said. “We know what winters are like here in Alberta, and we know what to provide animals with for them to come through the winter and into the calving season.
"Everybody has to look after their animals.”