Hamilton farmer disqualified after death of horse

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A Hamilton woman has been disqualified from owning horses for a year, sentenced to 100 hours community work, and ordered to pay vet fees of $498 after her horse, an elderly Chestnut Gelding, starved to death.

Alicia Victoria Keppel, 53, appeared in the Hamilton District Court for sentencing on one animal welfare charge, after the case was brought to court by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI).

MPI Animal Welfare and National Animal Identification and Tracing (NAIT) compliance regional manager Brendon Mikkelsen says it was serious offending.

"The horse was Ms Keppel's responsibility and she failed to provide proper care and sufficient food for it. For a long period of time she didn't check on the horse.”

Animal welfare inspectors visited Ms Keppel's property in the North Waikato area on 22 February 2020 after a complaint from a member of the public about an emaciated horse. When the animal welfare inspectors arrived, they found the horse had died overnight.  

Mr Mikkelsen says, "Ms Keppel's horse would have suffered significant distress. It was extremely emaciated, and starved to death.”

"In New Zealand, everyone must take responsibility for animal welfare. We encourage any member of the public who is aware of animal ill-treatment or cruelty to report it to the MPI animal welfare complaints freephone 0800 00 83 33".

Background information

Normal procedures for maintaining an older horse in good condition would include (but are not limited to):

  • free access to adequate volume of suitable forage (grass/hay/baleage)
  • supplementary energy dense feed (grains, nuts) if in sub-optimal body condition
  • access to potable water at all times
  • regular attention to hooves by a competent farrier (variable depending on circumstances but likely more than 3-4 times a year)
  • regular attention to dentistry – annually is normal
  • regular treatment for parasites with suitable anthelminthic (depending on the extent of pasture and range available this might be as little as 1-2 times per year).

Daily viewing would be appropriate for old horses in particular to detect common problems in this age group such as arthritic pain, colic, dental issues, and recumbency. In older horses these issues can rapidly lead to a deterioration resulting in unnecessary suffering and death.


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