Lots of community support is coming in for Norman Collier and his animals at Wild Things Petting Farm after a house fire destroyed his home in early February. Collier, who was inside the house, and the animals managed to survive.
Crew members from fire departments in Pickering, Ajax and Stouffville came to put out the blaze. Since then Collier has received over $16,000.00 in cash donations as well as a trailer from a local construction site that he’s using for a home.
“Clothing, pots and pans, bedding, animal food, everything that I could have possibly needed I’ve gotten,” says Collier. He says he’s surprised by the amount of care he continues to receive.
“The only time I cried about it was with the overwhelming support. It’s almost nullified the fire,” he said.
Unlike conventional petting farms, where most animals can be observed behind a wire, Colliers animals roam his property freely. “Nobody likes to be caged,” he says.
Collier’s petting farm has been open to the public for decades and many of the animals on his farm are rescues, brought in from animal organizations such as the SPCA and Animal Services.
“I say yes before they ask. If I can’t look after them they think no one else can,” he said. On average, Collier receives nearly half a dozen large animals from these rescue groups each year, as well as countless smaller animals.
In spite of recently losing his house to a fire, and undergoing radiation treatment for prostate cancer, Collier continues to open his farm to animals in need of a home. He recently took in four goats.
“It’s a sanctuary I guess you could say,” says Collier. He also attends markets and purchases animals he sees injured, adding that many of them make a successful recovery after they’ve spent time at his farm.
Collier says the animals he sees more commonly in need of a home are potbelly pigs. “That’s a bad one for people,” he said. A couple from Oshawa recently surrendered their potbelly pig to the farm after having kept the pig inside an apartment.
Brad Dewar is an investigation communication officer at the SPCA. He says there are a handful of cases where people ignore the bylaws and get animals they aren’t allowed to keep.
“Our job is to educate before enforce. We try to ensure that people know the commitments they take on,” said Dewar.
He says specific standards of care such as proper housing, ventilation, and proper access to food and water are other factors people need to consider before getting any animal.
According to Dewar, animals kept as pets that are traditionally considered livestock such as pigs, chickens and goats do not face the fate of ending up at a slaughterhouse.
“Our goal is to rehome animals and that the animals go to the appropriate housing facility,” says Dewar.
Lindsey Narraway is the supervisor at Animal Services in Pickering, and says people keeping chickens in urban neighborhoods are sometimes a problem. She says the main concern is the waste and smell of the animals, which become an issue in residential neighbourhoods where the houses are close together.
Narraway says Animal Services depends on specific animal rescue groups to find these animals new homes.
“We look for local farmers such as Norman to help us out,” said Narraway.
Narraway says laws involving animal cases of abuse and neglect towards livestock kept for pets are equally enforced, as they would be towards conventionally domesticated animals.
“They’re the same and they deserve to be respected,” says Narraway.