“I HOPE THESE HORSES FIND GENTLE PEOPLE. I HOPE THEY LIVE OUT LONG AND FULL LIVES”
ARMSTRONG - The possibility some of his 100 horses may go to slaughter after a court-ordered auction this weekend is not a pleasant thought for Armstrong man Gary Roberts. But that’s the reality the SPCA and the courts have put him in, he says.
“I don’t know what’s going to occur. I have no idea,” Roberts says, fighting through sobs. “But it’s to the point I can see these gentle horses being pushed down an alleyway to get a bullet to their head…. These are my babies, that’s what makes it tough.”
Roberts, 69, is charged with one count of causing unnecessary pain or suffering to an animal, and one count of failing to provide necessities for an animal. One of his court-ordered conditions is that he “shall not have custody or control of, or reside on the same property, as any domestic animal, including but not limited to horses, after February 17.” An auction is set for Feb. 7.
The clause also applies to his dogs, Roberts says. He’s concerned about the horses going from the natural state they're in—open fields—to confined stalls.
“People think they’re doing a wonderful thing for these horses when that’s the antithesis of horse behaviour,” he says.
He also fears some of the horses will be snatched up by so-called kill-buyers who would take them to slaughter. Having more time to find new homes for them would have been better for the horses, Roberts says. He would have preferred to have interested buyers come out to his farm, visit with the horses, and work with them before taking them home.
“I hope these horses find gentle people. I hope they live out long and full lives,” he says.
He’s not the only person who thinks the court order is unfair. Approximately 20 local residents signed a petition spearheaded by neighbour Le Verne Bowles asking the courts to withdraw the condition.
“It’s just too harsh,” Le Verne says. “Some of them being sold off to good homes is a good thing for Gary and a good thing for the horses, but to rush them all off, they might be sent to slaughter.”
Le Verne says Roberts’ horses have always looked well fed and well taken care of. Instead of rushing them all off to auction, he says it’s in the best interest of the horses to give Roberts more time—six months or a year—to locate new homes them.
“Be more compassionate to Gary and to the horses,” Le Verne says. “One hundred per cent of the neighbours here are behind the horses.”
Nearby rancher Gary Whitlock also signed the petition and insists the horses are not suffering in Roberts’ care.
“I pass by pretty much every day or every few days,” Whitlock says. “Every time I went by the horses have looked great and been knee-deep in feed…. I truly believe he cares about the horses, I don’t even question that.”
He says it would have been more productive for everyone if the SPCA took a more positive approach to the situation.
“It’s easy to take a snap shot view of anybody’s life or their situation and go, that’s the way it is,” Whitlock says. “For them to take a snap shot view of someone’s life and say this is what’s best, instead of trying to help, to me is wrong. I think we need to start coming up with positive approaches to educate and make the situation better.”
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