SPCA New Zealand

SPCA appalled by mistreatment of horses and sheep

03 September 2020
SPCA appalled by mistreatment of horses and sheep

A Masterton woman has been prosecuted by SPCA after pleading guilty to multiple offenses against her horses and sheep.

The defendant was sentenced today at the Masterton District Court to 150 hours’ community work, ordered to pay SPCA reparations of $15,000 and a contribution to legal fees of $5,000. She was also disqualified from owning stock animals, with the exception of two, for a period of 10 years.

In one of the most disturbing cases of animal neglect SPCA Inspectors have seen, the animals were left to starve and left with untreated open wounds among other serious injuries. The ill-treatment was initially uncovered in 2018, and on subsequent visits, Inspectors found more animals suffering including emaciated horses, horses with gaping open wounds, and sheep with severe fly strike and parasites.

SPCA CEO Andrea Midgen says the case is by far one of the worst she’s seen.

“Words can’t describe the pain and suffering these animals must have gone through with a lack of food and no treatment sought for their severe injuries,” she said.

“It is inconceivable that any person could not notice that intervention was required for these animals.”

The first instance of neglect was discovered in 2018 when the defendant’s mob of 43 sheep were found by an SPCA Inspector in faeces-covered paddocks with no grazing available. The Inspector took three emaciated sheep into his possession; one with severely matted wool, while the other two had fly strike with wool loss, peeling skin, and inflammation with maggots visible.

Despite veterinary treatment, one of the sheep died. The vet assessed that the sheep were suffering from distress caused by underfeeding, internal parasites and flystrike, indicating inadequate preventative health care and nutrition.

The SPCA Inspector later returned to the property and took the remainder of the sheep into possession. Three more emaciated sheep were found to have flystrike and severe clinical parasitism.

The defendant said she had been relying on others to look after her sheep but wouldn’t say who that person was. She said that two weeks earlier she had checked the sheep and treated some for fly strike. Despite having text conversations with a shearer, she had not arranged a date to have them shorn.

“The defendant had a history of taking on more animals than she could handle which created a pattern of malnourished and diseased animals despite SPCA intervention,” Ms Midgen said.

On a subsequent visit in March 2018 to a second property owned by the defendant, SPCA Inspectors discovered a very thin two-year old stallion named Max in a paddock with no grass. A vet recommended more food and for the stallion to be treated for parasites.

During a follow up inspection at the property, the inspector found Max to be emaciated, recumbent and tangled in a horse cover. To end his suffering, Max was humanely euthanised. The vet said that Max had suffered a prolonged period of distress due to lack of nutrition and appropriate care.

Two more of the defendant’s horses named Cookie and Freja were taken into possession and admitted to a veterinary hospital where they were put on feeding regimes.

Cookie, a 20-year old gelding weighed 360kg, but should have been 400-450 kg. He had parasites, very long feet, and gum ulcers which caused him pain. Freja, a Clydesdale type horse, weighed 380kg instead of 500kg. She too, had significant dental issues.

An SPCA Inspector issued a notice specifically directing the defendant to provide all her remaining horses 1-2 slices of hay daily, and give extra to the thinner horses still under her care. The Inspector returned a fortnight later. An underweight 8-year-old Shire named Keera was noted, and when the inspector checked on her a month later, her condition had not improved. Keera’s teeth and gums showed she had been eating very short grass or chewing on trees.

A week later, Keera’s condition hadn’t improved and the horse was taken into SPCA custody.

In 2019, a further two horses owned by the defendant, Missy and Venus, were both found to have extensive, deep wounds on their withers and neck. Missy had an abscess extending up her neck and there was a large painful area over her right shoulder blade. Maggots were visible in Venus’s wounds. Both horses had to undergo surgery the next day.

During surgery it was discovered that both horses’ wounds were infected and granulation tissue showed the wounds were old. Venus’ ligament wound on her neck had dead tissue around it. Due to the severity of her wounds, Venus was humanely euthanised, and despite every effort, including further surgery, two weeks later Missy had to be euthanised. The vet reported that both horses had extensive damage from trauma after they were attacked by the defendant’s stallion. The vet stated that although the injuries would have been painful when inflicted, the main cause of their pain and distress was the lack of prompt vet treatment.

The defendant surrendered ownership of Cookie to an animal welfare charity, and ownership of Freja and Keera was forfeited to the SPCA.

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