Ontario woman seeks justice in brutal slaying of pet emu, worries for family’s safety

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Ontario woman seeks justice after pet emu killed
WATCH: Shannon McCarrell was woken up in Fisherville, Ont., on March 13 by her teenage son telling her McTavish, one of four pet emus, was dead. Provincial police are investigating it as a case of animal cruelty, and McCarrell said that she wants the perpetrators to "get the maximum penalty" and "be made an example of." – Mar 18, 2024

Shannon McCarrell was woken up last week when her 15-year-old son came barging into her room at around 11 a.m. saying “McTavish is dead!”

The Fisherville, Ont., woman who works nights was in disbelief but, sure enough, she ran to the animal pens to find one of her four beloved emus in the middle of the pen with his neck bent at an unnatural angle and feathers and blood all around.

She said security footage shows two people making their way into the pen at around 3:15 a.m. that morning.

“I don’t know if their plan was to do it to all of them. My husband had gotten up at about 3:45 to let the puppy out because he wanted to go out for a pee. We’re thinking he might have scared them away,” she said.

“My family was sleeping not even 100 m from where this happened. What would have stopped them to have gone in and done this to my family?”

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McCarrell, who also has a seven-year-old son and 17-year-old daughter, is also concerned that the suspects may have been watching the house, because the attack occurred the very first night that the weather was warm enough for the emus to stay out overnight.

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Pictures of blood on the fence and ground.
Pictures of blood on the fence and ground. supplied by Shannon McCarrell

Haldimand OPP are investigating the incident as a case of animal cruelty. When police first reported the emu death, Global News had asked OPP if the emu was intentionally injured and why the case was being investigated as possible animal cruelty rather than a break and enter.

At that time, Const. Patti Cote said that “while I don’t want to speculate the reason for the individuals’ actions, they appeared on surveillance to enter directly into the animal pen upon arrival to the property.”

McTavish was nearly three years old and had been purchased along with another male emu, Lennox, from a farm in Tavistock.

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“It actually kind of started out as a joke,” McCarrell recounted.

“My husband had brought chickens home and then I became a bird person. And I kept teasing him that I wanted an ostrich. And then he’s like, ‘No, you’re not getting an ostrich.’ And then it turned into, ‘Fine, we’ll settle for an emu.’”

She did eventually get an ostrich and by the time she purchased McTavish and Lennox, she already had two female emus, Wallace and Fergus, as well as the ostrich and some chickens, ducks, geese, and barn cats.

Fergus and Lennox had paired off and Wallace and McTavish had as well. Now, McCarrell says Wallace is by herself again and has been crying for her mate.

McCarrell cuddling with a baby McTavish. supplied by Shannon McCarrell

While not an official charity, McCarrell says she’s known in the small community for taking in animals, rehoming them if possible and keeping them if not.

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“Everybody seems to know, ‘Oh, you don’t want an animal anymore?’ Just cause, you know, even the local hardware store gave my name out because somebody wanted to rehome their geckos.”

She calls her farm Mizfit Farms, in reference to the Island of Misfit Toys from the 1964 adaptation of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

“Everybody brings us the animals because they think they’re safe here. And we couldn’t even protect them here,” she said through tears.

The farm is roughly 1.6 acres, she said, with two animal pens — “so that we can separate them if we need to” — along the front of the property to one side of the driveway. Their house is on the other side of the driveway and the barn is at the back with another pen beside it for animals like chickens and ducks.

She did note that the emus have sometimes escaped in the past but said that the neighbours have helped wrangle them and everyone typically has a laugh about it. She also noted that while the farm isn’t open to the public officially, if she’s home when people stop by to look at the ostrich, she’ll typically invite them in.

An imprint of an emu foot with feathers around it.
A memorial for McTavish. supplied by Shannon McCarrell

When asked if she had any idea of a possible motivation for the attack, she said police are investigating but stressed there’s “no reason for it no matter what.”

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“If you have a problem with me, take it out with me. Don’t take it out on my birds. It’s not fair. They didn’t do anything.”

She’s hoping that sharing her story will help bring justice for McTavish.

“I want them found. I want them to go to jail. I want them to get the maximum penalty. I want them to be made an example of,” she said.

“If anybody knows anything, just please come forward. My bird deserves justice, and it needs to be an example of animal cruelty and that it’s not going to be tolerated. I see animal cruelty all the time in my line of work and people get away with it. If this is a stepping stone for getting harsher punishments then at least something comes of it, you know?”

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