Saskatoon-area woman says she's worried horses are 'starving'

Brenda Hagel says over the past few months she has observed a group of horses that appear underfed — but she feels helpless to do anything about it.

Animal Protection Services of Saskatchewan confirms it is investigating

Brenda Hagel says she has seen a number of horses looking inadequately fed near her Saskatoon-area home, and has reported the situation to the Animal Protection Services of Saskatchewan. (Photo submitted by Brenda Hagel)

Brenda Hagel says over the past few months she has observed a group of horses that appear underfed, but she feels helpless to do anything about it.

It was a bad year for pastures, and the animals, to her eyes, seem to be deteriorating over time — to the point that it appears to her that they're "starving."

She notes that with 50 years of riding and showing experience, she knows horses.

"Whatever was there is pretty much eaten and now it's covered with snow, so these horses are eating trees; they're eating whatever they can eat," she said. "They are in survival mode, in the biggest way."

No improvement in 3 months

She first saw the horses three months ago near her Saskatoon-area home, and reported their condition to Animal Protection Services.

While two-thirds of the horses were moved off the field after her report, the condition of the roughly 10 horses left hasn't improved, she said. She is a horse owner herself, and notes she could have given them hay, but she was advised to allow the process of investigation of abuse or neglect to take place.

"I feel very helpless not to be able to help them."  

This past week, Hagel shared her frustrations on social media, with a Facebook post about the horses shared more than 1,300 times.

Owners given time to relieve animals of distress

Kaley Pugh, executive director of Animal Protection Services of Saskatchewan, confirmed the case has been under investigation, and more complaints had been lodged since Hagel's post.

"The Animal Protection Act is very specific about when we have grounds to seize animals," she said, explaining that owners must have a reasonable opportunity to relieve animals of distress.

People do not see the work the organization does "behind the scenes," she said, explaining animal protection workers have dealt with 700 complaints this year, and executed 35 search warrants.

Through the course of the investigation process, they may visit the same residence again and again, in order to give an owner a chance to address complaints.  

"It does cause frustration, because people think nothing's been done or whatever but we do have to work with the owners and the timelines are quite variable, depending on the circumstances," said Pugh.

'In the meantime, the animals are suffering while the red tape is rolling."- Brenda Hagel

If people are found to be violating the Animal Protection Act, they could face fines up to a maximum of $25,000 and/or imprisonment for up to two years.

Hagel said she believes workers with Animal Protection Services are doing the best job they can, with the resources they have. But the province needs to re-examine its Animal Protection Act, and find a better method of dealing with cases of abuse or neglect, since the process to seize animals or lay charges is "too involved," she said.

"In the meantime, the animals are suffering while the red tape is rolling. It's the animals that are starving to death here."