Animal cruelty on Île d'Orléans: MAPAQ did not take action

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Animal cruelty on the island of Orleans: the MAPAQ did not crack down

Ex-employees of  #x27;Mi-Loup Expedition denounce situations of neglect and abuse of sled dogs.

Report by Camille Carpentier.

Puppies put in the freezer, sick animals slaughtered, unsanitary conditions. Former employees of a kennel on Île d'Orléans believe that government authorities should have intervened to save sled dogs.

Several alarm signals were raised in connection with the dog sledding company Expédition Mi-Loup, well before the arrest of its owners. Despite numerous complaints and notices of non-compliance, the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAPAQ) never sanctioned the establishment of Île d'Orléans. The owners, now accused of animal cruelty, have been able to continue to operate their business with impunity.

Mi-Loup Expedition has offered dog sledding for almost 14 years. The Saint-Jean-de-l'Île-d'Orléans kennel, which housed up to 200 husky dogs, ceased operations last spring after the publication of a CTV report that exposed questionable practices, such as the use of a gas chamber to euthanize animals.

A few days later, the place was searched by the Sûreté du Québec. According to information from Radio-Canada, the MAPAQ had nevertheless observed situations that did not comply with the law as early as 2016.

The owners, Élizabeth Leclerc and Antoine Simard, were arrested at the start of the September following a police investigation lasting several months. They are notably accused of having deliberately killed, injured, crippled or poisoned animals. They would also have neglected to provide proper food, water, shelter and care to an animal.

Édouard Parent (left), Antoine Simard (right) and Élizabeth Leclerc were arrested and charged of mistreating animals.

Another man, Édouard Parent, faces the same charges. This one worked at the kennel for several years, according to our information.

Through their respective lawyers, the three defendants declined to comment on our report. The case will be back in court on November 16.

Documents obtained through the Access to Information Act indicate that several inspections were carried out at Expedition Mi -Loup, notably following complaints.

A complaint, dated April 2015, sends the first alarm signals.

“No veterinary care for injured dogs and no one is able to treat them properly. Those who can no longer run are killed, as are those who are declared ''ugly''. Only a few puppies are kept, the others are killed.

— Excerpt from a complaint

A photo of the kennel taken by a MAPAQ inspector in 2014. For several years, Expédition Mi-Loup had more than 200 dogs in his care.

A few days later, an inspector goes to the scene. He observes nothing abnormal, apart from broken water boilers. The employee notes that the owner deals with a veterinarian for the euthanasia of animals. He confirms that he is not using other methods, he concludes.

Certain complaints have however led the MAPAQ to issue notices of non-compliance under the Property Act. animal welfare and safety (LBSA) and the Animal Health Protection Act.

On March 11, 2016, a MAPAQ employee observed meat residue in the food preparation workshop, which gave off a foul odor.

For example, during a visit dated March 2016, a MAPAQ inspector finds that several puppies have been euthanized. He notes that the method of euthanasia used does not correspond to that declared on the permit application, without specifying the nature.

The inspector also finds that the grinder used to prepare dog food is dirty and that sick animals are not separated from the pack. Owners are advised to comply with the articles of the law. Failing this, the ministry will take the necessary measures, it is specified.

The following October, a new inspection is carried out. In his report, the inspector insists again that the euthanasia procedure must correspond to that declared during the permit application.

The inspector also notices that the owners are not using a proper sterilization method. The sterilization of dogs is considered a veterinary act, it must therefore be carried out by a veterinarian and not by the owner […] of the animal, it is indicated.

Once again, owners are advised to comply with the Animal Welfare and Safety Act.

The inspector who visited the kennel in March 2016 advises the owner that the kennels must be raised off the ground.

In March 2018, situations that do not comply with the law are again observed. An inspector reminds the owner that sterilization must be performed by a veterinarian.

In all, Radio-Canada was able to consult six inspection reports written between 2014 and 2020, including five following a complaint received. Only three resulted in a notice of non-compliance, although situations that did not comply with the law were observed during five visits.

Despite everything, no ticket seems to have been given. MAPAQ declined to comment on the information contained in this report.

“As the file is currently in the legal process, MAPAQ will not comment on the specific file and the allegations against it. »

— Yohan Dallaire Boily, public relations officer at the ministry

Former employees of Expédition Mi-Loup believe that the ministry should have done more to protect dogs. Radio-Canada has been able to speak with nine ex-employees in recent months. Most testified confidentially, for fear of reprisals from the owners.

Two of them told us that they had not witnessed situations of animal abuse during their stay at the kennel.

The other seven, however, told us that they had witnessed negligence which has undermined the welfare of the dogs. Two of them agreed to testify openly. We met them last May.

Mathieu Lambert and Mathieu Lévesque worked as guides at Expédition Mi-Loup during three and four years.

Mathieu Lévesque and Mathieu Lambert worked as guides at Expédition Mi-Loup for four and three years respectively. They had no previous sled dog experience. By their own admission, their dream of working with animals quickly turned into a nightmare.

Bug-infested meat, overworked employees and dogs , injured animals shot in the head, the two ex-employees mention a difficult work environment where animal welfare was far from a priority. They were particularly upset with the way the kennel handled unwanted litters of puppies.

“Birth control happened after birth. »

— Mathieu Lévesque, ex-employee of Expedition Mi-Loup

Five other ex-employees confirm that very few measures were put in place at Expédition Mi-Loup to limit reproduction. They claim that females in heat were not always separated from males and that males were not all neutered. Result: dozens of litters were born each year.

This litter was born at Expedition Mi -Wolf in 2021. Ex-employees allege that animals of this age were routinely culled to prevent overcrowding in the kennel.

With an already overcrowded kennel, the head guides had the heavy responsibility of making most of the newborns disappear. Our sources say that several newborn animals were simply placed in the freezer, where they succumbed to a slow death.

Employees told us that some preferred to shorten the suffering of the puppies by breaking their neck. A gesture of compassion towards these animals which, according to them, would have been killed by the owners anyway.

Personally, I hated it and I found roundabout ways not to do it, says Mathieu Lambert, who says he still has nightmares related to his experience as a guide.

Asked about the euthanasia method that should be preferred, the MAPAQ replied that euthanasia by intravenous injection of barbiturate performed by a veterinarian is the recommended practice and should be preferred in all cases where it is possible to do so. do.

The law allows the owner of a kennel to slaughter his animals himself. However, he must respect section 12 of the Animal Welfare and Safety Act, which provides that the method used must not be cruel and that it must minimize the anxiety of the animal. The person performing the slaughter must also note the absence of vital signs immediately after the act. The law does not specify which method is acceptable. A new regulation, which will come into force in February 2024, prohibits euthanasia by inhalation for pets. Euthanasia must also be performed by or under the supervision of a veterinarian.

The two ex-employees also claim that the company did not regularly use the services of a vet. According to them, animals that were too old or sick were also regularly slaughtered to contain the kennel population. Other employees we spoke to confirm this information.

“Retirement is a headache. It was many, many unnecessary deaths. »

— Mathieu Lévesque, ex-employee of Expedition Mi-Loup

Mathieu Lambert would have liked the owners to offer the animals for adoption instead.

There were solutions. There would have been many more. And easily, he said bitterly.

Employees set up a temporary kennel in the meat prep room in an attempt to treat a sick dog.< /p>

These ex-employees believe that MAPAQ, which is responsible for enforcing the law, has not done enough to protect sled dogs.

“There is a lack of seriousness. Looks like the law doesn't regulate dog sledding well, or nobody gives a damn. »

— Mathieu Lambert, ex-employee of Expedition Mi-Loup

Animal protection associations also believe that the ministry only too rarely cracks down on owners of animals who deviate from the Animal Welfare and Safety Act, entry into effective in December 2015.

The MAPAQ is recognized for having a very conservative, even lax application of the law, confirms Amélie Martel, spokesperson for the Humane Society International Canada.

According to her, the ministry does not have enough inspectors in its ranks and is reluctant to act when commercial activity is at stake.

Amelie Martel is Campaign Manager for Humane Society International Canada and has worked in Law Enforcement on animal welfare and safety.

MAPAQ has a lot of powers under provincial law, she points out. He can issue infraction reports, fines, confiscate animals, seize them. There are really several mechanisms provided for in the act. Why are they not used? I think that only MAPAQ can answer that question.

The ministry did not wish to comment on the Mi-Loup Expedition file.

However, he specifies by email that 23 inspectors are currently working for MAPAQ. Between April 2021 and March 2022, they carried out 42 inspections in establishments that hold a license to keep 50 dogs or cats or more, such as Expédition Mi-Loup.

In a report sent to MAPAQ last year, the Association québécoise des SPA et SPCA notes that the seizure of animals, especially dogs, is only used as a very last resort, once several other measures have been tried without be sufficiently dissuasive. Animals can therefore spend years in inadequate conditions.

The Association asks that the seizure of animals be considered earlier when a case of negligence is documented and that the law be applied more strictly.

MAPAQ has, on several Occasionally denied SPA/SPCA inspectors permission to remove animals from premises where they were kept, even when violations of the LBSA were clear and there was a history of non-cooperation on the part of the owner or custodian of the animals. animals, can we read in the report.

“In some cases, criminal charges and convictions were ultimately obtained, despite the MAPAQ having refused authorization to infringe under the [law]. »

— Extract from the report

As for Mathieu Lévesque and Mathieu Lambert, they want a change of mentality. Mathieu Lambert still remembers the names of the dogs who died prematurely. He wants the lives of animals to have more value for Quebec society.

Even if I said what I had experienced, it was trivialized. [I was told]: ''It's dogs, why don't you go over it?'' It's not dogs, it's colleagues, he breathes.

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