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SPCA prosecutes man whose horses ate own faeces due to lack of food

25 August 2023

A man who failed to provide enough food for his horses, to the point where they became so desperate they were regularly eating their own faeces, has been sentenced in the Auckland District Court.

SPCA prosecutes man whose horses ate own faeces due to lack of food

The defendant, who had over 40 years' experience in the harness racing industry, was convicted of 30 offences involving 11 horses over a 15-month period. The offending included a failure to provide adequate food, exercise, farrier, and dental care, together with a number of discrete offences for striking his horses with various objects and tying them up on a short lead for excessively long periods of time.

The man was sentenced to 160 hours community work and was disqualified for owning horses for seven years.

The offending occurred at a Dairy Flat property between April 2017 and July 2018. SPCA Inspectors visited the property multiple times during this period, over concerns about nine stabled horses and four that were contained in muddy paddocks. The stabled horses were observed regularly eating their own faeces and sawdust bedding, with little or no access to hay. This behaviour demonstrated a degree of boredom and desperation as the horses searched for forage. On one visit, a paddocked horse was observed eating wood from the fence post and chewing dirt.

SPCA Inspectors instructed the defendant to provide hay for the horses on multiple occasions. Despite this, sufficient hay was only observed in the stable on one occasion. Inspectors were concerned the horses were going for periods of up to 12 hours each day without forage. At one point, the defendant told Inspectors that horses did not need hay, as hay was not a necessity.

In June 2018, multiple stabled horses were again observed eating their own faeces, grazing on sawdust bedding and biting the walls of their stable, while others were licking metal partitions and chewing objects such as tyres. Over a 22-day period, just eight bales of hay were brought to the stables for all 13 horses.

The defendant also claimed that all the horses were receiving exercise for at least an hour each day. This was later proven to be untrue: over a three-week period four horses did not leave their stalls at all, and the other five were only let out for 20-30 minutes at a time with a sulky (horse drawn cart) on occasional days.

One stallion received a total of just five hours out of his stall over the 22 days. The defendant was observed punching that same horse in the neck and hitting him in the face with a bucket twice, in response to him kicking out. The defendant was convicted of four charges involving kicking, hitting and/or striking his horses with objects such as a shovel.

On 31 July 2018, SPCA Inspectors and New Zealand Police attended the property and executed a search warrant, seizing all 13 horses.

A veterinarian assessed the horses and found majority of them had evidence of oral ulceration in association with sharp teeth. “The state of the horses’ mouths was consistent with mouths of wild horses that had never had dental treatment before”, the vet stated.

A registered farrier said the horses’ feet overall indicated they had been kept in unhygienic boxes soiled with urine for long periods of time with minimal movement. The four mares (kept in outside paddocks) had hooves which were consistent with standing in wet mud for a reasonably long period of time.

SPCA Chief Executive Robyn Kiddle was appalled by the ongoing neglect of the horses in the defendant’s care.

“It’s unfathomable and absolutely heartbreaking that these horses were mistreated and left to the point where they had to eat their own faeces and pieces of wood,” Ms Kiddle says. “The defendant had plenty of opportunity and offers for help, yet he did nothing for the welfare of his horses.

“This is one of the most large-scale and complex investigations SPCA has undertaken and we are determined to act as a voice for those who can’t speak for themselves. No animal should be treated this way, and we’re pleased we were able to provide these horses with the care they deserve.”

The court also ordered Mr. Evans to pay $16,909.12 in costs, which were incurred as expert witness fees and legal costs by SPCA.

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