Owner says she has nothing to hide and will co-operate with authorities
South Peace News
A Nampa hobby farm is hoping to set the record straight about the quality of care their animals receive.
Lydie Watters says her small farm is a dream project she only recently started building one animal at a time, but has been the subject of numerous local complaints to the SPCA.
Watters says her animals are being given the best care she can give them. She says the SPCA has visited her place four or five times this year and she says they have never found anything wrong. She has taken to local social media to let people know the complaints were groundless.
“I have no way to approach my accusers because none of you approached me in person except Shirley Gach [who showed up at my door]. I believe that anyone should report animal abuse and that this service is essential for their well-being. So thank you for doing your due diligence,” she writes in a post from Feb. 25.
“Please continue to report issues you see and I’ve got nothing to hide and welcome the Alberta SPCA any day.”
Watters says she was accused at first of running an illegal puppy mill, but she has all the papers saying the dogs were fixed.
“They were neutered at either Dr. Tara’s in Grimshaw or at the Peace River vet. I don’t have a puppy farm,” Watters says.
“I’m the annoying friend who says we need to spay or neuter our animals.”
Watters says another complaint was about a sheep who she got with overgrown feet, even though she had posted on local social media that she was actively searching for someone to trim the sheep’s hooves and found someone to help shortly after bringing the ram home.
Watters’ hobby farm is visible from the highway near Nampa, and she thinks people who don’t know a lot about animals may be driving by and thinking a horse eating the greener grass over a fence may be going hungry, or a horse lying down is in distress when it’s just sleeping.
“I know everybody knows me for having like this death farm,” Watters says. “So it bothers me that people will talk and say, ‘Oh, I know where you live, and I’m thinking, but do you? Because none of them are sick.’”
Watters says she has adopted dogs from the SPCA and In the Woods Animal Rescue, and rescued a horse from auction.
She has paid out of pocket to get healthcare for rabbits and other animals she has rescued who have health problems as part of her own commitment to taking on animals and giving them better care.
“To tell you the truth I have problem cases everywhere,” Watter says.
She points to a horse she says has foundered, and quickly lists off the health and behavioural issues she has had to address with her other horses.
“Juniper wasn’t trained, now we can have a rider on her, Mary has one blind eye so she’s very difficult to work with. The really tall [horse] came to me for free from a lady who screened tons of people, talked to my friends, talked to Healing Reigns, to see how I am with horses. I got her for free because she needs a good home. She was attacked by a cougar on the back legs. I’m not somebody who would sell her for meat, not somebody who would try to ride her.”
Watters says she is planning on getting certified to do equine assisted learning and the horse is very intuitive so she is happy to have her for that in the future.
“She’s a joker, she’ll pull things out of your back pockets, get you out of a funk,” Watters says.
She adds the farm has been good for her mental health after suffering depression, and good for her children’s mental health as well. One of her dogs is serving as a service dog for her daughter.
Watters says she has poured all of her time and money into the animals.
She also says she asks friends who are experts in the animals for help all of the time.
“I’ve got mentors,” Watters says.
She says she has also done research on her animals before getting them.
“I guess the biggest thing is awareness. If my neighbour could understand what to look for,” Watters says.
“It sucks because the SPCA drives all the way from Edmonton for this and I’m thinking there are actual cases with starving horses.
“If the goats get out they’re not trying to escape because they hate it here, it’s because they’re goats,” Watters says.
Watters says while the number of times the SPCA has come has given her children some anxiety the animals they love will be taken away, she understands that whoever is calling the SPCA actually shares her love of animals.
Dan Kobe, the SPCA’s communication manager, says the SPCA’s first priority is always to see if any animals are in distress.
“Our goal is to relieve that distress,” Kobe says.
He adds even then, in the majority of cases, they are able to talk to the owner of the animals and make suggestions on how to improve conditions for them. Animals are only taken into custody if the animals are in distress and the owner is not willing to take any action to improve their conditions.
The SPCA doesn’t normally name anyone under investigation unless charges are laid.
The SPCA has active offices in Calgary, Edmonton, and Okotoks.
There used to be an SPCA officer based in Grande Prairie but Kobe says staff there hasn’t been replaced yet. However, he says SPCA officers routinely drive up north two to three times a month.
“Driving four hours isn’t a big deal,” Kobe says.
If an animal is in severe distress and can’t wait, he says the SPCA can send a bylaw officer or police officer instead, and can authorize euthanasia over the phone.
That may be the case for downer livestock.
In all cases, the SPCA is there to listen when someone calls, and will ask questions to help determine if they should send someone to the location of the animals or not and how quickly.
“If someone has a concern, they should call us,” Kobe says.
Attempts to contact Gach for comment were not successful.