An Auckland man who starved his horses to the point where they had to eat their own faeces has been sentenced in the Auckland District Court.
The man - who had more than 40 years’ experience in the harness racing industry - was convicted of 30 offences involving 11 horses at his Dairy Flat property.
The man has been sentenced to 160 hours of community work and was disqualified from owning horses for seven years.
The SPCA said his offending occurred over a 15-month period between April 2017 and July 2018, and included failure to provide adequate food, exercise, farrier and dental care.
He also struck his horses with various objects, including a shovel, and tied them on a short lead for excessively long periods.
Inspectors visited the property multiple times during this period over concerns about nine stabled horses and four that were contained in muddy paddocks, the SPCA said.
The stabled horses were regularly seen eating their own faeces and sawdust bedding, with little or no access to hay.
The SPCA said that kind of behaviour showed the animals were bored and desperate as they searched for forage.
On one visit, a paddocked horse was observed eating wood from the fence post and chewing dirt, the organisation said.
Horses did not need hay - defendant
Inspectors told the defendant to provide hay for the horses on multiple occasions. However, sufficient hay was only observed in the stable on one occasion, said the SPCA.
They were concerned the animals 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, said the SPCA.
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, said the SPCA.
Over a three-week period, four horses did not leave their stalls at all and the other five were only let out for 20 to 30 minutes at a time with a sulky (horsedrawn cart) on occasional days.
One stallion spent only five hours out of his stall over 22 days. The defendant was seen punching that same horse in the neck and hitting it in the face with a bucket twice, in response to the horse kicking out.
In June 2018, multiple stabled horses were again seen 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.
On July 31, 2018, SPCA inspectors and police executed a search warrant at the property and seized all 13 horses.
‘Unfathomable and absolutely heartbreaking’ - SPCA
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,
“The defendant had plenty of opportunity and offers for help, yet he did nothing for the welfare of his horses.”
Kiddle said no animal should be treated in this way.
“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.
“We’re pleased we were able to provide these horses with the care they deserve.”
The court also ordered the man to pay $16,909.12 in costs, which were incurred as expert witness fees and legal costs by SPCA.