Former owner of kennel being investigated by OSPCA had concerns in 2014

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WARNING: Disturbing images are contained in this story

Last week, the Ontario SPCA (OSPCA) announced charges against the owner of Hidden Meadow Farm, the kennel that provides dog sledding and trail rides at Deerhurst Resort.

In the release, they said, “On June 8, 2016, the Ontario SPCA received calls concerning care of animals in a kennel. Ontario SPCA officers attended and found 42 Alaskan Husky and Malamute-type sled dogs at the location. A veterinarian examination revealed large, open wounds that had been left untreated for days; numerous older, healed, partially healed and infected wounds; limping with an obviously swollen, painful leg; fever; and broken, infected teeth.”

The subsequent charges were:

  • Permitting an animal to be in distress
  • Failing to provide adequate and appropriate medical attention
  • Failing to provide the care necessary for an animal’s general welfare
  • Failing to confine an animal to a pen or other enclosed structure or area that must not contain one or more other animals that may pose a danger to the animal

Prior to the incident, there had allegedly been a fight between four dogs resulting in injuries to two and the death of a third. The kennel’s owner, Shani Ride, says the injured dogs “were in isolated kennels, they were on penicillin and they were getting their wounds cleaned twice a day. I have nothing against the SPCA. They were doing their job. When they come out to a call, they have to check everything. They walked around and looked at the rest of the dogs and found two more.”

The OSPCA told Ride that the four dogs had to have veterinary care, but she refused. “I said, ‘I’m not going to do that, I’m already treating them and I feel my treatment was fine. I’ve dealt with these injuries before. Taking all four of those dogs to the vet was going to cost me in the thousands of dollars. Unfortunately, I love these animals but this is a business. I said if you feel my care isn’t proper for them, I will have them euthanized. Businesswise, it doesn’t make sense for me to put thousands of dollars into these dogs when the unfortunate reality is that a new sled dog would cost me $200.”

OSPCA officers gave Ride the option of surrendering the dogs instead, which she did. Of the two injured dogs, one, Teddy, was taken immediately and had a four-hour surgery. The other, Thistle, they returned for a week and a half later, says Ride, and was almost healed, but “they took him and did surgery which in my opinion delayed the healing process.”

Of the other two dogs, only one ended up being surrendered – Elvis, who had a lump bigger than a golf ball under his knee, but Ride says he had it when she bought him and he’d never shown lameness because of it. The fourth dog, Frost, had an infected ear that had healed by the time officers returned.

The charges came later, says Ride. “They came back and charged me with animal cruelty, which really upsets me because I feel I was trapped. I won’t surrender my dogs again.” She invited this writer to stop by and see the dogs. The photos below show the dogs as they were at that time: most in kennels by twos, and two dogs chained outside the kennel area, one nearby and one just up the hill in a forested area where there were also other single shelters and chains. There were no kennel staff present.

Matt Todd, the former owner of the kennel who sold the operation eight years ago to Ride, said that he filed a complaint about treatment of the animals in May of 2014. After he received a tip from a friend who was concerned about the animals, he says he went to the kennel and, based on what he saw, called police. He also lodged a complaint with Deerhurst.

“(The OPP) said they would contact the SPCA. We left it up to them,” says Todd. “There was neglect over time. I’d heard some stories… rumours go around and you take them with a grain of salt. But once I observed it, I said, ‘this isn’t cool.’”

He took photos of the dogs, some who were emaciated, some who were chained to stakes, and one of a deceased dog in a wheelbarrow.

Ride says she remembers the day as being busy. “(The dead dog) was Swift – it was pretty much the same situation, which makes it sound like it happens all the time. This was in the old kennels. They were in pretty bad shape. Dogs got out, she got killed. It was in the middle of a busy day so they took her out of the kennel and they wheeled her into the bushes where they couldn’t see her and then we went over in the evening and took her and buried her.”

But Todd disagrees with those actions. “(They) just put the dog in a wheelbarrow with an old door on top and stuffed it at the side of the woods. That’s someone saying, ‘oh, well, I’ll just deal with it later.’ It hadn’t just passed away. I’ve lost a few dogs… and the first thing I did was bury it behind a tree. You do the dog the decency, you don’t put it in a barrow and leave it for later.”

Ride, who says she hasn’t seen the photos, also said that it’s normal for sled dogs to be skinny after a sledding season. “My vet has been involved with my dogs for years and there have been times when she has said the dogs are looking a little skinny, let’s look at some different feeding options.”

But Todd disagrees with that, too. “Just like any human, if you were training for a race that’s true to some extent. But there’s a difference. I’ll agree that the Alaskan husky is basically a cross between a greyhound and a husky. Sure my dogs would lose weight over the winter, but there’s a difference between seeing a few ribs and seeing ribs, hips, and joints. When I was there, some dogs looked healthy and some didn’t. I took a picture of the one that looked the worst.”

Todd also said that while he’s had dogs fight, they’ve never come away with more than a few puncture wounds and none have fought to the death. He currently owns four sled dogs, two of which he took back from Ride’s kennel – one seven years ago that was in good health and one last winter that was in rougher shape and had a tooth hanging by a piece of skin.

Today, Deerhurst Resort general manager Jesse Hamilton said in a written statement that the resort has “suspended the Dog Sled Program run through Hidden Meadow Farm. As part of our ongoing commitment to the care of all animals on our property, we have also proactively decided to temporarily close the stable operations today, which are also operated by Hidden Meadow Farm, so we can conduct a review and are requesting added guidance from the OSPCA – even though no issues have been raised regarding that operation.”

Ride says she understands their business situation. “Deerhurst has done the right thing. I have no concerns, the SPCA was at the farm two or three days ago and had no concerns. And if Deerhurst wants them to come back in, that’s fine.

I am not the only person this has happened to,” she added. “It happens. If you had two dogs and you came home from work and they had fought and one of them had died, everybody would be going, ‘oh, that’s so terrible, I’m so sorry.’ But this happened at a kennel so I’m a monster – that’s what upsets me.”

Ride says she doesn’t agree with the charges against her and will be hiring a lawyer. She will answer to her charges August 23 in Bracebridge court.

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19 Comments

  1. Laura MacLean on

    This is truly heartbreaking and utterly disgusting. The owner is clearly in denial and should be banned from ever owning any kind of animal. When a beloved pooch dies, the last thing a responsible pet owner would do is stuff it in a wheelbarrow and leave it for later. This repulses me to the core. I hope justice prevails and this horrible human never gets the chance to ‘care’ for any animal ever again. It’s so sad that she would neglect these precious dogs of everything they deserve. Especially love.

  2. Leslie Cockwell on

    This is a perfect example why we need to pass the BILL C-246 (please check it out and sign it, for the animals) The BILL C-246 will make it easier to convict those who neglect animals by failing to provide them with suitable food, shelter and care. Currently prosecutors must prove “Willful neglect”, which is contradictory and confusing standard that sometimes allows puppy mill operators or those who starve animals to escape criminal convictions. BILL C-246 strengthens sentences for special animal abusers with a mandatory lifetime ban on animal ownership for any person convicted of animal cruelty for a second time. If this law was passed, this woman, Shani Ride would NOT be allowed to own or operate her disgusting ‘business’. We need the public to know who, where and how these dogs are treated when they choose to use her business. I wonder, if they saw these dogs when they are not being ‘used’ for entertainment…would they still pay to help her continue with this abuse. It is nothing more then animal abuse.

    • Nathalie Connor on

      I am worried that Bill-C-246 won’t have the bite it really needs to. While the fact that a new section of the Criminal Code dealing specifically with animal abuses is being proposed, I think more specific sub-categories need to be spelled out. Those would be laws governing breeders, hoarders, puppy mill operators, dog-fighting match operators, sled-dog operations and zoo (including petting zoo operators) , the reason being that there are multiple animals subjected to cruelty.
      April Dawn Irving, the poster woman for the mistreatment of animals, has been able to run two puppy-mill operations in two separate provinces. She has made a complete mockery of the judicial system on two separate occasions. She failed to appear for her last court appearance and is nowhere to be found. The most worrisome aspect of this farce, is that she is likely starting up a third animal death camp in Saskatchewan.
      She needs to be behind bars and only specific legislation will assure that she cannot outfox yet another judge.

  3. This owner is a disgrace! She cares only about the $ she makes with no concern for these dogs! Close her down permanently!!!

  4. Frances Botham on

    The photos shown indicate the living quarters of these sled dogs. Why does our comunity allow/condone this inhumane treatment of these dogs? It seems incomprehensible that a major tourist establishment such as Deerhurst would allow this low grade kennel on its property and further promote sled dog rides. Do they not have standards for such “atractions” that occupy their property? Further, getting to the core issue. Is there any grey area concerning whether the kennel owner is competent or negligent? Since the inappropriate housing and care of these dogs is blatant, it’s up to the people to voice opinion calling for maximum penalty and confiscation of all the dogs involved. The Animal Shelter for Huntsville has substantial funds in their coffers to assist in this incidence. Maybe they should be called upon to save these dogs, provide veterinarian care and all that is neccessary to find loving adopting homes. Proactive action is necessary now.

  5. Heather Hunter on

    Shut this disgraceful operation down permanently and criminally charge this person immediately . To allow this woman to continue to operate anything is a travesty.

  6. Elizabeth Blaze on

    This is typical of the OSPCA. They are no longer in business to protect animals. They are in the business of making money under the guise of protecting animals. This is only one example of OSPCA allowing abuse and negligence to continue.

  7. Christina Arnoldin on

    This is a disgrace. What also is a disgrace is that the enslaving, torturing, and killing of defenceless cows, pigs, sheep, chicken, etc is deemed normal.

    • Also disgraceful is the fact that while the OSPCA and branch/affiliate humane societies proclaim to be “the voice for animals”, they hold fundraisers at which they primarily serve beef, chicken etc. Supporting the killing of animals to raise money for animals, how ethically twisted is that?

  8. Cindy Ouellette on

    Absolutely disgusting! If the owner of the sled dogs can’t afford to HUMANELY care for the dogs, then get out of the business!!! As a dog owner, it is my responsibility to care for every need of my dog. If I couldn’t afford proper vet care, I wouldn’t own one! And I’ll also say that I would boycott Deerhurst Resort for contracting with such a barbaric, unfit sledding operation!

  9. If sled dogs are used for your income, then take care of them to a standard that they deserve. Otherwise, get out of the business. This is 2016. In Ontario (Deerhurst) sled dogs should not be considered a ‘recreational activity’. Get a job where you use yourself and not some poor defenceless animal.

  10. What I don’t understand is why Deerhurst isn’t at the forefront of this investigation? Just like their golf course, pool, stables etc…The dog sledding was a part of the resort activities, therefore why is this all falling on Ride’s shoulders? Yes, she is the owner and yes, the facility is in a state of disrepair, but why wasn’t Deerhurst more involved with her ownership? It’s very plain to see that the facility desperately needed upgrading and the animals needed better care, but Deerhurst should have been more responsible? If something is broken at the Inn, I’m sure it gets the attention it requires in order to keep the clients happy and coming back, so why did they let a business run under their umbrella, especially one which has to do with animals lives and well being, operate under those conditions without saying or doing anything to remedy the situation???

    • Virginia Studebaker on

      I’m a groomer, I have bred dogs. BUT it was 1 dog, she was a Bouvier. She was a dog with a good show line, a family dog and was only bred when I had a waiting list. She did Not make me money, so stop making money off animals you have feelings for, they will end up fighting all time because they are not socialized. Get a life, get a real job, and try to find what compassion is.

  11. Linda Boyle Eganville, Ontario

    I am a dog groomer in Eganville, Ontario and a owner of both dogs and horses.
    I knew Shani Ride by her married name Shani MacDonald for a number of years when she lived in Eganville.
    Shani ran trail rides for another resort in Algonquin Park during that time. She had someone at the park taking out rides and caring for the horses. One of the older horses went down in the paddock and would not get up. Shani was contacted about the situation. That horse laid in the full heat of summer for a week before Shani decided to return the poor animal to Eganville to be destroyed. Do not be fooled by her boo hoos and statements of how much she cares for the unfortunate animals who come under her care. They are no more than a money maker and like she said “why would you vet a hurt animal when a new one can be bought for much less money?

  12. Joan Grey-Eganville, Ontario

    I have known Shani MacDonld-Ride for a number of years. I am the woman who was looking after her horses in Algonquin Park, and dealt with the sick mare mentioned in Linda Boyles’ comments.
    I witnessed many forms of neglect and abuse during the time Of my acguaintance with Shani.
    This is a woman who has no regard for the animals under her care and a life time ban would ensure that the lives and quality of life for many animals ,in the future ,would be improved.

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