February 1, 2019 2:07 am
Updated: February 1, 2019 3:07 am

Woman says she outbid meat buyer on 2 horses, shocked to find out they are from Fort Edmonton Park

Concerns are being raised about the City of Edmonton's process for rehoming horses after these two Fort Edmonton Park horses were recently taken to an auction in Tofield, Alta.

Supplied by Voice for Animals

A Parkland County woman who says she recently outbid a meat buyer to acquire two horses at an auction was shocked to find out they were from Fort Edmonton Park. She now has concerns about what happens to City of Edmonton animals when their service is no longer needed.

“There’s got to be a better way to do this for the city,” Cindy Thomas told Global News on Thursday. “It’s just an ethical thing.”

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Thomas said she went to an auction in Tofield, Alta., over the weekend with the specific aim of outbidding meat buyers to save horses from the slaughterhouse. She said she first began attending auctions in the fall after one of her horses, Molly, went missing in the hope of finding her. It was then, she said, that she learned about how many horses sold at auctions go to buyers wanting them for meat.

READ MORE: Missing horse found 3 months later near home close to Entwistle, Alberta

Watch below: (From Dec. 24, 2018) A woman from the Entwistle area says her missing horse, Molly, has been returned to her after she went missing in September.

“Now that I know what’s going to happen to the horses, I can’t just walk away,” Thomas said.

“There’s a lot of expenses incurred with this, but — it’s just I can’t sleep at night knowing that I’m not trying to help a little bit,” she added. “I think the majority of people would feel the same way once they learned what’s actually going on.”

READ MORE: Alberta horse rescue group believes 2019 could be its busiest year yet

Watch below: (From Jan. 1, 2019) An operator from a Calgary-area horse rescue farm says 2019 could be their busiest year on record. Joel Senick explains how the province’s economic climate is driving demand for their services.

Thomas said she bought the two draft horses on Saturday. One was already named Major and she named the other Hope. She said it was her husband who noticed they had belonged to the City of Edmonton.

Thomas said she brought the animals home in a horse trailer.

“We got them home on Sunday and… they were OK,” she said. “We got them set up in a quarantine pen and Monday morning, when we came out, Major… was dead.”

According to Thomas, both horses were underweight when she bought them but she noted that’s a fixable problem. She said a veterinarian looked into Major’s death for her and discovered heart valve issues, kidney issues and stomach issues. She said Hope had lice when she got her.

“It did surprise me [that they were from the City of Edmonton],” Thomas said. “Especially once I started to think about it and the shape that they were in.”

Carl Damour is the vice-president of operations at Fort Edmonton Management Company. He told Global News the auction assumed care of the horses on Friday but that the horses were well cared for.

“The whole care team here was very saddened to hear of Major’s passing and what we can say is that certainly when the horse left our care, he was certainly in very good care,” Damour said.

“We have very sound animal welfare practices here with an animal welfare specialist who ensures that the animal gets vet checks, medical care, they have a really good feeding regiment and I can certainly comment that the animals that went to auction were feeding normally and were also hydrating normally when they went to auction and before they went to auction.”

“I don’t think those two horses should ever have gone to the sale, regardless of the outcome and everything,” Thomas said. “Even if they had been spot-on perfect and healthy, they should have never gone to an auction that could have potentially sold them to a slaughterhouse.

“Not only do the people dropping them off (horses at auction) not realize it, but I think society in general doesn’t realize that Canada, the nicest country that’s supposed to be around… we’ve kind of got this dirty little secret going on and it’s pretty horrific in my opinion.”

“There’s certainly a lot of different buyers at these auctions,” Damour said. “We certainly understand that it’s a sensitive issue and that certainly some people disagree with the common practice of rehoming animals through the auction process, but it’s certainly a very common process that’s used and it’s certainly part of what’s in the prescribed process that’s prescribed to us by the city.”

Damour would not comment on the process because it’s the city who determines what that is. He said the horses were used for programming at Fort Edmonton Park, which could include pulling single-carriages or historical programming.

READ MORE: Fort Edmonton Park suspends animal activities after horse-drawn carriage tips over

“The park is undergoing construction and over the next two years we’ve got to manage the animal herd,” he said. “These horses still had the ability to do some work and there was a need for us to look at rehoming those animals… using the city process. There’s a process for how those animals are rehomed. We follow the prescribed process.”

Thomas said she has since discussed her concerns with City of Edmonton officials.

“As long as they’re open to, at the very least, making sure that the rest of the horses in their care aren’t in bad shape, I’ll be thrilled.”

Damour said he’s open to talks with the city to see if any changes should potentially be made to the rehoming process.

“We understand that the city is going to be reviewing that process and as a steward of the park and stakeholders of the city, we will certainly collaborate and engage with them to see if and where improvements can be made,” he said.

“We care greatly about the animals. They’re an important part of the Fort Edmonton Park programming and certainly an important part of the park family.”

Karin Nelson is a board member with Voice for Animals, an organization that advocates for animals. She said her group has been working with the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition to look into the conditions horses face when being shipped from Canada to Japan for slaughter.

READ MORE: Live horses shipped from Canadian airports to Japan for slaughter

Watch below: (From 2017) Live horses are shipped from Canada airports to Japan for slaughter. Global’s Brittany Greenslade reports.

She said they have learned many of the Canadian horses being exported were used for entertainment or other services before being sold for slaughter.

“We advocate for animals and do not support using animals for consumption,” Nelson told Global News. She said their main concern with the sale involving Major and Hope was that they believe the City of Edmonton “sort of violate[d] public trust in sending these animals to auction.”

“As a corporation, Fort Edmonton Park… they are condoning connecting with animals, loving animals, and then to sort of callously dispose of them this way is a concern,” she said.

Nelson also said her group has questions about the condition of the horses bought by Thomas when she purchased them.

Nelson said Voice for Animals is planning to call on the City of Edmonton to ban all horsewagon rides, in part because she has concerns about what will happen to the animals if they go to auction after they’re no longer used for rides.

“I think the majority of people, knowing what that means, would not support it.”

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