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Beef farmer vs. animal police

Tribunal judgement saves farmer from almost $400,000 bill after beef animals removed for no reason
PETERBOROUGH — Warsaw beef farmer Walter Ray has largely prevailed at a provincial tribunal in his recent cost dispute with Ontario’s animal police. The 77-year-old Ray must pay only $14,276 of the $391,196 sought by Provincial Animal Welfare Services (PAWS) when its officers seized his healthy beef herd before Christmas and held them at expensive foster farms for months.

To Ray’s relief, the Animal Care Review Board slashed the whopping — and ever-rising — claim from PAWS in a ruling delivered Aug. 8 by adjudicator Susan Clarke. The demand from PAWS stood at $144,000 when Ray’s appeal was initially heard in March and rose to more than $391,000 by the time the animals were finally sold in early May.

PAWS rounded up and removed 101 of Ray’s Angus-cross beef cattle Dec. 16, after he failed to comply with orders to clean up “hazardous debris” on parts of the 200-acre property where the animals roamed. Two animals were injured badly enough to be put down during the chaotic roundup involving the use of ATVs, and a contractor ended up in a Toronto hospital with serious injuries.

Ray was not charged with any offence and there is no allegation that his animals were not in good condition. He is considering suing the province.

In her written decision, Clarke noted that she was not convinced that the removal of the animals was necessary if the animal police made six visits to the farm before removing the animals.

After the cattle were taken, Ray demanded that PAWS send them to market immediately, rather than rack up off-site care costs at foster farms. PAWS hung onto them, however, continuing to incur daily per head boarding rates of between $20 and $50 per animal. Only in March did PAWS agree to selling the animals, while awaiting the main tribunal ruling. The animals didn’t actually go on the block, though, until May 3 at Hoard’s Station sale barn.

Ray’s lawyer, Bob Scriven, said the $14,276 now owed by his client represents only several days’ worth of care his animals received at foster farms.

Scriven praised Clarke’s “excellent, well-written decision” and her “interesting finding that the cattle were not in distress and did not need to be removed.  That is very important for Walter’s and (wife) Gwenda’s reputation.”

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