The Yukon Humane Society hopes to raise nearly $1 million to build a shelter for abused or neglected livestock, but the Yukon government says it’s not much of a problem.
“It’s not an ugly, prevalent thing,” said Wes Wirth, manager of operations and programs with the Department of Community Services.
In the three years since the government first employed an animal welfare officer, it hasn’t had to seize a single animal, Wirth said.
And it’s not that it’s hard do.
Under the territory’s animal welfare law, animals can be seized even without a warrant, said Wirth.
“If we think that the animal is in distress we call a vet and have them analyze the situation,” he said. “It’s really the vet’s call as to what kind of corrective action needs to be taken to protect the animal.”
Last year there were eight cases of suspected abuse or neglect of livestock in the Yukon. None resulted in any formal charges.
“Our intent is not to press charges if we can avoid it,” said Wirth.
“We would only get to that point if the owner refused or failed to provide medical attention where it was warranted or feed the animal where it was required. I think that people generally respond to education and encouragement.”
The fact the government hasn’t seized any livestock in the past three years doesn’t come as a surprise to Shelley Cuthbert, the humane society’s vice-president.
“That’s not one of their (the government’s) big mandates to seize animals,” she said. “But it doesn’t mean that people won’t be willing to give them up.”
Many dogs and cats end up at the animal shelter because their owners can’t take care of them any more, said Cuthbert.
If it builds a shelter, the society believes the abused and neglected will come to it.
“In the last couple months we’ve had a lot of calls,” said Cuthbert. “Sometimes people feel a lot more comfortable coming to us rather than to the enforcement people.”
The society’s plans for the new $800,000 livestock shelter are still in the preliminary stages.
It’s still working on securing land for the facility and raising the money to build and run it.
The initial plans call for a 10-stall barn for horses, cows, sheep and other livestock and 10 kennels for pets when there’s no more room at the downtown shelter for them.
It’s expected to cost about $500,000 to run the livestock shelter operation. The current shelter for cats and dogs costs $400,000 a year to maintain.
So far the response to the plan has been positive, said Cuthbert.
The society has already spoken to the Yukon government about the proposal, she said. This week Cuthbert has meetings planned with the Yukon Horse and Rider Association and the Yukon Agricultural Association.
“It’s moving forward,” she said.
Contact Josh Kerr at firstname.lastname@example.org