Woman sentenced for appalling neglect of two horses
An Auckland woman has been prosecuted by SPCA for neglecting two horses so severely that one of them had to be euthanised to prevent it from suffering further.
She was sentenced at Manukau District Court today after pleading guilty to two counts of ill-treatment of an animal causing it to suffer unreasonable or unnecessary pain or distress. The woman was sentenced to 12 months’ community detention, and to supervision for a period of 9 months. She was also ordered to pay reparations of $6,868.35 and disqualified from owning horses for a period of 6 years.
The defendant was charged after SPCA Inspectors responded to concerns about a very underweight horse at a Kingseat property in March 2020. When they arrived at the address, they discovered two horses that were owned by the defendant. The animals were so emaciated that their bones were clearly visible and the Inspectors described the horses as having a depressed demeanor.
The following day, three SPCA Inspectors and two equine veterinarians returned to the property with a search warrant. The two horses were seized and taken into SPCA’s care for immediate treatment.
One of the horses, a 36-year-old grey mare, was given a body condition score of zero out of five – the lowest possible score. She was so underweight that her pelvis and ribs were clearly visible, she was sunburned on her upper muzzle, had poor teeth and cracked hooves. She also had a superficial injury on either side of her rear which had scabbed, had a severe case of worms and was diagnosed with Cushing’s Disease. She was later euthanised to prevent further suffering.
The other horse, a 20-year-old brown mare, also had an incredibly low body condition score of 0.5 out of five. Her rump, pelvis and ribs were visible, her hooves were cracked and she was showing obvious signs of pain. Like the other mare, she too had a significant case of worms due to poor drench and pasture management.
The veterinarian determined that the severe level of emaciation in both horses would have meant they suffered over a long period of time. Both would have experienced exhaustion, hunger and weak immunity, all of which cause distress. The veterinarian concluded that the degree of weight loss was unreasonable and should have been addressed well prior to SPCA’s involvement.
'It’s absolutely heartbreaking to think how long these horses would have suffered for,” says SPCA Chief Executive Andrea Midgen. “They were clearly neglected for a significant period of time and the distress they endured was cruel and avoidable.”
The defendant told SPCA’s Inspectors that she visited the property twice a day to feed the horses and denied being their owner, but refused to provide details of any person who she believed to be responsible for them.
This is the second time the defendant has been prosecuted by SPCA for animal welfare offences. She pleaded guilty to ten charges of failing to ensure the physical, health and behavioural needs of an animal were met in October 2013. As a result, she was disqualified from owning horses for three years and sentenced to four months’ community detention and 250 hours of community work.
“It’s really frustrating to see an offender, who has already been convicted for breaching the Animal Welfare Act, reoffend just years after their sentence has expired. These horses deserved better and it’s good that we could hold her to account for the harm she caused. We will continue to investigate and where appropriate, prosecute serious offenders who abuse animals,” says Ms Midgen.
The brown mare has been in SPCA’s care since it was seized in March 2020 and is doing well.