SPCA New Zealand

SPCA appalled by woman starving her tethered horse

11 February 2021
SPCA appalled by woman starving her tethered horse

A Lower Hutt woman who tied her horse to a tree for up to four weeks with no food or water has been prosecuted for reckless ill-treatment of an animal.

The defendant was sentenced yesterday in the Hutt Valley District Court. She was disqualified from owning horses for 10 years, and ordered to pay reparations of $287.00 and $450.00 towards legal costs.

On the morning of 23 March last year, an SPCA Inspector visited the defendant’s property after being alerted to the poor condition of a horse named Zorro.

Zorro’s emaciated figure could be seen from the winding gravel driveway, tethered 20 metres down a steep bank in a standing of pine trees. On closer inspection, Zorro was weak, was struggling to stand, and had a large wound on his right hind leg.

The SPCA Inspector observed there was no grass, viable feed, or faeces near him. His spine, ribs and pelvis were prominent and his tether was tangled around several trees reducing its length to approximately 1.5m. The complainant had given him two containers of water prior to the arrival of the inspector which he had drunk quickly.

The Inspector tried to lead Zorro up to the driveway to receive veterinary treatment, but Zorro continually fell backwards, too weak to climb up the steep bank. A veterinarian was unable to attend due to the lockdown announcement which was made whilst the inspector was at the property. After a detailed phone conversation with an equine vet, the decision was made to end Zorro’s suffering and he was humanely euthanised.

Assessing photos and video, the vet concluded that Zorro was starving and weak. The vet stated Zorro would have experienced significant, unnecessary, and unreasonable distress not only because he wasn’t able to move, but also from severe thirst and hunger, pain from his leg wound, and distress at being kept by himself.

SPCA Chief Executive Andrea Midgen says there was no excuse for tethering the horse and not providing basic necessities like food and water.

“Zorro would have suffered not only physically, but psychologically as well. It’s difficult to imagine the suffering Zorro would have experienced in the last weeks of his life, where he was isolated, starving, and in pain,” she says.

“Horses are also herd animals, so being alone and tethered tightly on a steep rocky bank, it’s just a terrible situation for any animal.”

His owner admitted she had tied him up three to four weeks earlier as he kept escaping. She stated he was in an OK condition at the time, and that she had given him water once, but no food because she had no money. She admitted she was unsure how he sustained his leg wound. The defendant said she was going through significant personal issues herself.

In early March, a witness asked permission for his daughter to feed Zorro, but the defendant said no because Zorro was “ill”.

Ms Midgen says caring for a horse comes with significant responsibility and that this situation was entirely avoidable.

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