Quebec vets make highway house calls

by Carroll McCormick

MONTREAL, Que. – Four veterinarians and three Control Routier officers come outto greet the truck as it pulls in behind the Les Cedres eastbound check stationnear the Ontario border.

The officers do a walk-around and check thedriver’s log book. The vets climb up to peek through the ventilation holes inthe sides of the huge trailer, carrying horses imported from the US.

It is the fifth livestock truck of the morning.

Four Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA)vets had arrived at the check station at 6:30 this sunny March morning, readyto inspect trucks for compliance to federal animal transport regulations,educate drivers and just remind truckers that CFIA is on the job. The vets checkfor adequate and clean litter and whether any of the horses look ill or arelying down. They also check for anything that could injure them, such as holesin the floor, unstable flooring or broken metal inside the truck.

The Control Routier officers limit theirmechanical inspection to a walk-around: They are not keen to be on thereceiving end of a cow, er, horse plop or a hot piss. If they suspect that anytruck is not in good mechanical order, they issue the driver a 48-hour warning.This obliges them to go have a mechanical inspection within 48 hours and submitthe inspection to the Societe de l’assurance automobile du Quebec (SAAQ).Otherwise, the truck will no longer be allowed on the road.

Few of the 10,000 or so truck inspections CFIAdid in 2009 were at highway check stations; most are done at slaughterhouses,borders and auction houses. However, explains Dr. Marie-Claude Simard, aveterinarian program specialist with CFIA, “The awareness, education andvisibility are very important to me. We do a lot of education with thetruckers; for example, do they know the regulations? This is one of the bigpurposes of being here.

“If we suspect something and want tounload the vehicle, we put an official seal on the truck. The truck usuallygoes to a federal slaughterhouse. There, the trucks can be unloaded and federalinspectors can inspect the animals. We can write a non-compliance report, whichgoes to an investigation in Montreal. There could be fines, advice, but this isnot done here on the spot.”

CFIA vets have been coming to Quebec checkstations about three to four times a year for the past five years. “Wehave the power to inspect animals in transportation where we want, but we haveto do it with SAAQ…when we do inspections on the road or at a check station,”Simard explains, noting that at places such as a slaughterhouse, auction marketor assembly yard, SAAQ support is not needed.

“We check the log books, where thetruckers picked up the animals and how long they have been driving with them.This helps the vets, because they do not have the power of interception,”explains Control Routier carrier enforcement officer Arnold Yetman.

Because animal inspection days at controlstations are infrequent, Control Routier make a special effort to stop allanimal trucks going in either direction.

Drivers carrying animals generally know theregulations very well, according to Simard.

Still, it is important to check how many hoursthe trucks have been underway; the maximum travel time is 48 hours withoutstopping for water, feed and rest for ruminant animals (ie. cattle, sheep, andgoats) and 36 hours for monogastric animals (ie. horses, pigs and poultry).”Non-compliance is rare. I have seen a lot of improvement since I starteddoing this six years ago,” Simard says.

The industry is responsible for training itsdrivers, but there is plenty of information and courses available. One goodresource is the Certified Livestock Transport Web site (

It includes a training program, reports andinformation; ie., a 10-page booklet titled Livestock TransportationRequirements in Canada and a 75-page document on how to transport farm animals.

It also covers laws and codes, providing, forexample, a link to the Health of Animals Regulations, Part XII, which are thefederal requirements for animal transport.

Problems are more likely to be found duringweather extremes. When it is cold, frostbite is a concern. Poultry trucks andtrucks carrying red meat animals need tarps or covers. The length of the tripsare important.

“For poultry, if the trucker stops once anhour for 15 minutes, this is an approved way to reduce the chance offrostbite,” Simard explains.

In hot weather, ventilation is essential,Simard says. “If you stop, park the truck out of the sun. Try and avoidtraffic problems. We have a requirement to reduce the loading density for pigsand poultry, which are particularly susceptible to overheating.

“What I like a lot about the checkstations is that we can inspect trucks en-route. It is always a surprise forthe truckers to see us here. They are not always happy, but if they know theregulations they have nothing to fear.”

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  • It’s all cruel, and inspectors can’t ease these animals suffering. Transporting animals is to slaughterhouses is so inhumane, I only wish I could change it for them. 48 hours without food and water, I’d like to make all involved including the vets go without food and water for 48 hours while being crushed in a truck in extreme weather conditions.

  • “CFIA vets come to Quebec checkpoints about 3 or 4 times a year” Really,,,do they really think that is enough time spent considering there are 365 days in a year. Also this statement speaks volumes “It is always a surprise for the truckers to see us here. They are not always happy” I wonder why = because they’re up to NO good & are usually free to travel as they please, unregulated. Due to overwhelming proof that this practice is not regulated on a daily basis, ALL horse slaughter & horses destined for slaughter must be banned in Canada !

  • According to this CFIA link, horses are not to be transported more than 36 hours (not 48 as stated).
    Also note that it is not recommended to transport horses on double decker trailers.
    It is a known fact also that horses are regularly transported over the border from the U.S. at nighttime when no inspectors are there.
    Much has to be done to truly make transport of animals humane.