WINDSOR, Ont. — A southern Ontario man says he plans to keep using live sheep in his floats, despite receiving numerous complaints following two parades on Canada Day.
Dave Szusz is the publisher of the Windsor, Ont., edition of The Shepherd’s Guide, a directory of Christian businesses, and for the past 11 years he has entered floats in local parades that feature a three-metre-tall blow-up statue of Jesus holding a baby sheep and four to six real sheep.
At Christmas time, his float also includes a manger with a real baby, Szusz said.
But on Canada Day this year, DJ and animal rights activist Dan MacDonald posted on Facebook that the treatment of the sheep was depressing and he encouraged people to contact Szusz, which prompted a flood of complaints.
The man’s response is anything but sheepish.
“It was a target against me, which is fine, they can go ahead and take me on,” said Szusz, adding he’d go to court or do whatever he needs to to prove he hasn’t hurt the sheep.
MacDonald said he didn’t see the float in person, but saw complaints about it — with photos and video — on social media.
“I thought it was kind of sad to see sheep out with very loud blasting music, out in the heat in the city,” he said. “Animals being used as entertainment is something that always rubs me the wrong way.”
But Szusz said there’s a shelter on the float that keeps the sheep out of the sun and the music — which he says came from the float behind him — doesn’t bother them.
He said he doesn’t understand MacDonald’s concern that sheep don’t belong in a city.
“Well, I mean, come on, why would that make a difference?” he said.
Some of the complaints reached the Windsor/Essex County Humane Society. Executive director Melanie Coulter said her organization is investigating, but hasn’t found any indication so far that the sheep were in distress.
In the meantime, the two men have talked and found some common ground, agreeing that some of the complaints directed at Szusz were out of line, as they focused on his Christianity, rather than the sheep.
“Religion, for me, had absolutely nothing to do with this,” said MacDonald, adding he apologized to Szusz for the remarks others made about his faith.
“I think what they were doing was just trying to find an excuse to complain,” Szusz said. “This day and age, unfortunately, a lot of that goes on.”
While MacDonald said he still hopes Szusz will stop using live sheep one day, Szusz said he plans to enter his float as usual in another parade next weekend.