Montreal's SPCA is accusing the Quebec government of not doing enough to protect dozens of foxes and hundreds of mink kept in what it says are inhumane conditions at a farm where they are being raised for their fur.
After receiving a complaint about alleged cruelty on Jean-Luc Rodier's fur farm in Montérégie south of Montreal, the SPCA obtained a warrant to investigate last May.
SPCA director of animal advocacy Alanna Devine says she was horrified when she arrived at the farm.
“Animals not having access to adequate water, large amounts of excrement, filthy cages... the sort of things that would be outrageous if we saw dogs… wired bottom cages, no access to a solid floor,” said Devine. “Difficult things to see.”
The fur is harvested and sold, usually for fashion wear.
The mink and foxes are bred, and offspring are gassed or electrocuted, and then pelted.
The SPCA says videos and photos taken at the farm show foxes kept in small, wire cages.
During its visit to the farm, it brought along a veterinarian specializing in wildlife.
'Dehydration was evident in all 91 foxes. Emaciation or starvation was present in many of the animals. There were a variety of injuries from broken toes, to a broken leg, to a missing eye, lesions on the tails."' - Veterinarian Sherri Cox
“We had several types of injuries or illness," said veterinarian Sherri Cox. "Dehydration was evident in all 91 foxes. Emaciation or starvation was present in many of the animals. There were a variety of injuries from broken toes, to a broken leg, to a missing eye, lesions on the tails."
The SPCA asked the government to step in — wild animals like foxes and mink are under the jurisdiction of Quebec's Ministry of Forests, Wildlife and Parks, even when bred for commercial purposes.
Ministry slow to intervene
Devine said the ministry was slow to intervene initially. But in mid-July, inspectors went to the farm.
“My reaction was, 'Of course these animals are going to be removed. These animals' lives are in danger,” she said. “They're in distress and the law gives them the power to remove them, so of course they're going to act.”
After the first visit, inspectors decided to go back.
Veterinarians also euthanized four foxes and one mink at the site because they were too sick to survive.Ten days ago, the SPCA accompanied them to the farm. The inspectors seized 16 arctic foxes because the species aren't allowed to be kept without a permit.
However, ministry officials left the rest of the animals on the farm, and Devine believes the government isn’t doing its job.
“I was very emotionally charged because it was very difficult to leave behind those animals, but I knew — or I thought I knew — that the next step was going to plan to remove them.”
Strict conditions, says ministry
The ministry says it is taking this case seriously.
Head veterinarian Guylaine Segin says inspectors have been back every two to three days since the Aug. 4 visit.
“Our approach is a little different than the SPCA. We preferred to leave the animals where they were for the time being,” said Segin.
Segin says the ministry wanted to give the owner a chance to correct the situation, so it imposed strict conditions to ensure animal rights are respected, including proper access to food and water.
She says the owner is collaborating and inspectors will continue to visit the farm.
A bigger problem, says SPCA
Jean-Luc Rodier has faced accusations of animal cruelty and negligence in the past.
In 1996, he faced 262 charges of cruelty to animals and negligence and eventually was found guilty to 32 counts of negligence.
The remainder of the charges were dismissed.
Devine says this case highlights a bigger problem with the fur farming industry.
In Quebec, the number of farms isn't clear, because the industry is unregulated.
Farms of 10 or more mink or foxes do not need permits, so there are no inspections unless the ministry receives a complaint.
Seguin says that's rare.
Devine says this is a major flaw in how the ministry is set up.
She says the SPCA is keeping on the pressure, and wants Minister of Parks and Wildlife Laurent Lessard to intervene.
Recently, Quebec's Ministry of Agriculture changed its regulations to better protect animals, but the Ministry of Parks and Wildlife has not announced plans to match those regulations.
Rodier, the farmer, did not respond to CBC's phone calls.