A family on the Piikani Nation is expressing sadness and disappointment after they were unable to find help for an injured or sick horse that collapsed near their home more than five days ago.
Band employees put the horse down Wednesday afternoon, a few hours after Christopher Buffalo expressed his family's concerns in an interview with CTV news.
Buffalo said while the horse is now out of its misery, he is saddened that action wasn’t taken sooner, and that nothing was done to determine if the animal could have been saved.
Buffalo said his mother had previously called animal rescue groups and other agencies for help. He said the response from those groups was that it was outside their jurisdiction, because it was on the reserve. Buffalo said the family was advised to contact the Piikani Lands Department, who originally sent a pair of employees to have a look.
“They only determined that she was too badly broken up, that there was nothing they could do,” said Buffalo. He said they described the horse as “coyote food”.
He said the horse had been in stress for the last five or six days in their yard. Buffalo started calling the animal Mars, because of her reddish colour.
The family brought her water, and Christopher said his 11-year old granddaughter was able to feed the horse apples, and carrots. “Each morning she would ask me, what’s going to happen to Mars?”
Buffalo said on the north part of the reserve, where livestock is allowed to free graze, it is not unusual to come across dead animals or carcasses of horses or cows near the road. He is concerned that they are sometimes left to die. His dogs often bring the bones back to their house.
“They are not attended to and I don’t know if they are accounted for,” said Buffalo. He said Mars didn’t have a brand, and no one knew where she came from or whose horse she was.
Buffalo said it was heartbreaking to watch a group of horses stand over her during the night, as if they were protecting her from coyotes. “They were trying to encourage her to get up and go.”
CTV contacted the Piikani Lands Department but has not received a response.
The Alberta SPCA said they were not contacted, adding many people confuse the SPCA with other organizations, or assume they are all the same group.
Asked whether they will investigate the matter, the Alberta SPCA provided a statement:
“Our first priority with any call is to relieve distress in the animal and in this case that’s not an issue any longer. And since the original call about the horse didn’t make it to us, we wouldn’t normally follow up.”
The Alberta SPCA said if they had received a call about the horse they would have sent someone out the same day, or arranged for someone to see the horse in their absence. The organization said “downer” livestock are their highest priority calls, and if an animal can’t get back up, a call can usually be made very quickly to euthanize.
A spokesperson for the Alberta SPCA said peace officers in southern Alberta have a good relationship with the First Nation and would normally work together as opposed to making decisions arbitrarily.