The frigid weather that settled in the province over the past couple of weeks resulted in an increase in calls for the Animal Protection Services of Saskatchewan (APSS). Since Feb. 5, they opened 23 investigations, with seven of them in the southeast.
The Mercury talked to Don Ferguson, APSS executive director, about the nature of the calls and the proper care animals need during the winter.
"As it typically happens when we get this extremely cold weather we do get an increased number of calls in a short period of time," Ferguson said.
The calls came in from all over, from Weyburn to the Manitoba border, however, there were no calls in Estevan specifically.
Most of the calls have been for animals, specifically dogs or livestock, staying outside without adequate feed, water or shelter.
Ferguson added that it's nice that the public is being proactive and pays attention to the condition in which animals are kept. Once the weather becomes extreme the number of reports usually goes up, but in many cases, the APSS officers find that minor measures need to be taken to improve the situation.
"Thankfully, a lot of times … the calls are not as urgent as people expect them to be. And there are some things that can be done by way of education," Ferguson said.
He went on to explain that quite often owners just don't realize that the condition they created for their animals may work in one kind of environment but don't when the weather changes.
"Although they had that same dog house and the dog has been using it well the beginning of the winter, at -40 and below it's not an adequate shelter anymore. (So we provide) them education as to how to improve that shelter so it would be adequate if the dog is being left out or if it's an outside dog.
"And same with livestock. Livestock producers in Saskatchewan do an excellent job in making sure that they are taking care of their animals. But usually with the cold weather comes some added care concerns and sometimes people aren't taking those extra percussions that they need to. And we are just providing that education."
There have been no animal seizures in the region so far this year. Ferguson said that if the investigation shows that something is off, they educate owners about what needs to be done and usually people just implement the recommendations to ensure the wellbeing of animals.
The Animal Protection Act is regulatory in nature, so the APSS are always looking for compliance, and taking animals into protective custody is the last resort.
"In most cases, we are trying to do it by way of education and consent to make those improvements. But there is also an option of issuing a corrective action order in which the owner is given a specific period of time, in which they have to rectify the conditions that would likely lead to an animal being in distress. And if they don't take those measures, then we will take the animal into protective custody," Ferguson explained.
He also noted that if compared to previous years, so far they've received fewer calls from the southeast Saskatchewan region. The tendency might be partially attributed to an example set by two significant livestock seizures that occurred in the Stoughton and Lampman areas in 2019. In both cases, criminal charges were laid.
Ferguson provided a few tips that would help to ensure the well-being of outdoor animals during the rest of the cold winter days.
"Livestock can tolerate these cold temperatures as long as they are acclimatized to it. But with the weather conditions being what they are, obviously, they need to have an increased amount of food to provide for increased energy and liquid water, so that they don't have to use that energy to use snow as the liquid source. It's always better and definitely preferable, particularly with cattle.
"Horses do require liquid water. And just making sure that you are checking on the animals daily. If people are going to use horse blankets in this weather, they need to remove those and check the horses' conditions at least once a week.
"Dogs can remain outside, but they've got to have adequate shelter. We recommend that straw is used and making sure that straw bedding is clean and dry, obviously changing it out if it becomes moist. It's just a better insulator than blankets."