Farm worker’s neglect kills horses

22 May 2007

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry’s (MAF) Animal Welfare Investigation Team welcomed the sentence handed down in the Gisborne District Court today to a farm manager for the neglect of horses in his care.

Matthew Brown pleaded guilty to nine charges of ill-treatment, failure to attend to the physical welfare needs and health of the horses and failure to comply with an animal welfare inspector’s requirements. He was sentenced to 150 hours community service, ordered to pay $3016.41 in reparations and disqualified from owning or exercising authority over horses for two years.

A MAF animal welfare investigator first visited a Te Karaka property in early June 2005, with an SPCA Inspector, to follow-up on a complaint concerning the condition of the horses on the property. Some 35 horses were found to be in poor condition. There were no yards for the horses, the majority had not been broken in or handled, and most were riddled with worms. No one was present at the property.

The defendant was contacted by phone and advised that MAF would return to the property the following day with a vet to assess the horses. Following the assessment, the defendant was issued with a notice to prevent or mitigate the suffering under the Animal Welfare Act 1999.

On 20 June an SPCA Inspector and vet returned to recheck the horses and found that they had not been drenched. The vet discussed with the defendant a plan for drenching, culling and dividing, and feeding particular horses. A subsequent visit on 8 of July found that the horses had still not been drenched, several were in very poor condition and one was dead in a gully.

Inspectors visited the property again in July 2005. Three horses had to be put down because of their poor condition, a result of under feeding and worms. The horses had not been drenched. MAF obtained a temporary enforcement order in the Gisborne District Court on the 18 July that directed the defendant to attend immediately to the needs of the remaining horses. This was eventually complied with.

MAF’s Animal Welfare Investigations Manager, Charles Cadwallader, said that this was a distressing case of animal neglect that could have easily been prevented.

“The defendant was given ample opportunity to rectify the situation and choose not to. I am pleased that a guilty plea was entered, as there is no defence or justification for this neglect.”

“The Animal Welfare Act 1999 places a duty of care on everyone who owns or is in charge of an animal to prevent pain, suffering and distress. In this case the defendant has sadly chosen to disregard this obligation."

Issued by:

Helen Keyes, Senior Communications Adviser
Phone: 0-4-894 0161 or 0-29-894 0161
Email: helen.keyes@maf.govt.nz

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