An Auckland woman has been convicted of neglecting five horses in her care - one of which died of starvation.

Alison Freemantle-Pilkington, 57, of Papakura, was sentenced to 220 hours of community work in lieu of a fine, ordered to pay $4562 in costs and was disqualified from owning animals for five years.

She described herself as having had 30 years of experience in owning and handling horses.

In July 2010, an SPCA Auckland inspector found five horses - Jasper, Ace, Star, Aaron and Benjamin - looking very thin in two big paddocks and gauged their "body score" as 3.5 out of 10 - five being ideal.


The inspector called Freemantle-Pilkington and told her there was not enough grass growth in the paddocks for the horses and instructed her to feed them more supplementary feed.

The next week, a new inspection found all the horses were worse - four had a body score of 3 out of 10. The fifth, Jasper, scored at 2.5 out of 10 and had signs of equine diarrhoea.

After a veterinarian's examination the next day, the SPCA inspector issued orders under the Animal Welfare Act 1999 for Freemantle-Pilkington to feed the horses twice a day and provide special care for Jasper, which included stabling, medicine and a blanket.

That evening, Jasper died from starvation, acute salmonellosis, bronchopneumonia, and an overwhelming parasitic burden. He was found dead near the stables the next day by the inspector, who called the veterinarian back.

They recommended Ace be put down on humane grounds.

The remaining three horses were emaciated with a body score of 0.5 to 1 and were immediately placed in the care of the SPCA Auckland.

They have since thrived and will be put up for adoption.

SPCA Auckland's executive director, Bob Kerridge, said that although the case did not suggest any deliberate or malicious mistreatment, it did represent "an extreme case of neglect with tragic outcomes, results which are simply unacceptable".

"Horses are sentient, as are all animals, and accordingly are capable of feeling pain and distress, as these horses undoubtedly did. This is unacceptable and could have been averted if veterinary advice had been sought or the SPCA had been asked to help earlier." He said the sentence in the Manukau District Court was "an appropriate outcome".

"A lesson has been learned, and a message sent."