SPCA investigates animal rescue farm near Calgary

A farm that took in horses and other animals is under investigation by the Alberta SPCA.

Horses were irregularly fed and had untreated injuries, allege former volunteers

The Forgotten Farm in Springbank is no longer operating. Two former volunteers raised concerns about the treatment of horses. 2:33

A farm that took in horses and other animals is under investigation by the Alberta SPCA.

Two former volunteers say they witnessed several problems at The Forgotten Farm, just west of Calgary in Springbank.

Sylvia Schunicht can see The Forgotten Farm from the deck of her home — or what remains of the operation.

The owner, Tara Davies, told CBC News she has shut the farm down and adopted out the animals. Davies didn’t want to comment further on the allegations by her former volunteers.

Neighbour Schunicht volunteered with the animal rescue organization for three months.

Chase had his eye removed after an untreated eye infection, according to volunteer Teena Thomas. He has since been adopted by a family in Edmonton. (Courtesy Teena Thomas)

"I thought maybe she's overwhelmed," recalls Schunicht. "Too many horses at once, and she's rescuing, and she doesn't quite know. So that's why I offered my help and I thought now that she knows she must feed hay every day and provide food, things will get better."

But Schunicht says the situation didn't improve and her concerns included frozen water buckets, irregular feeds, and untreated injuries.

Injured animals

Another volunteer, Teena Thomas, says one horse had to have his eye removed because of an untreated infection.

"The eye was rotting out of his head. It was terrible," Thomas recalled.

Some horses were also injured when a recently gelded stud was let loose with the rest of the herd, she said.

At one point Thomas counted 52 horses, along with pigs, dogs and other animals. The horses mostly came from an auction and some arrived at the farm not in the best of health, she said.

"I've volunteered for other groups and there's different standards and levels of care... But there's basic things required for animals to survive and in ‘rescue’ they shouldn't just be surviving, they should be thriving."

Hundreds of rescue groups in Alberta

The Alberta SPCA is still investigating the allegations.

Complaints about animal rescue operations aren't unusual, said executive director Terra Johnston.

"They get into it with the best of intentions. They want to save animals and there are a lot of animal lovers out there, for sure. I think what happens in some cases is that they become overwhelmed with the sheer number of animals that they come into contact with and that they are being requested to take on," she said.

The Alberta SPCA estimates there are 300 animal rescues in the province, but it doesn't know for sure because there's no governing body keeping track, nor any registry of any kind.

Charitable organizations that raise more than $25,000 a year must register with the provincial government.