A Christchurch man has been prosecuted by SPCA after he failed to ensure that the physical, health and behavioural needs of his horse were met by failing to provide proper and sufficient food.
Rufus Culliford entered a guilty plea on 25th January 2019, and today was sentenced to 300 hours’ community work, disqualified from owning horses for three years and to forfeit horses he currently owns, ordered to pay a fine of $1,500, reparations of $3,935.14, prosecution costs of $750 to SPCA, and court costs of $150.
The case began on the 13 of December 2015 when an SPCA Inspector visited the property of the defendant after complaints were made about Tubby, a chestnut mare. The SPCA Inspector saw that Tubby was in light body condition, with ribs, backbone and hip bones clearly visible.
Over the following months the Inspector continued to check up on Tubby and took a number of steps to ensure she received the necessary attention including asking the defendant to take Tubby to seek care from an equine dentist and veterinarian, issuing a formal written notice, and then engaging a veterinarian directly to assess Tubby.
The Inspector took Tubby into possession and under SPCA’s care she placed her on a dental care and feeding plan that improved her body condition from 0/5 to a healthy 2.5/5.
Tubby was returned to the defendant with a feed plan and a follow up dental appointment was arranged.
The Inspector was initially confident that after being educated on Tubby’s nutritional and health care requirements, the defendant would continue providing her with this.
However, the defendant cancelled the dental appointment and the Inspector was unable to contact the defendant. When the SPCA Inspector visited the property to follow-up, Tubby couldn’t be found.
A further inspection found that Tubby’s condition had once again deteriorated, and she was taken into possession by SPCA again.
At this point her body condition score was between 0 and 1 out of 5, 3 would be considered normal. Blood tests showed some changes mildly outside of normal that could be explained by Tubby’s current weight and a small wound on her right foreleg.
Faecal testing revealed a worm burden which may have contributed to her weight loss but she was not showing any signs of disease.
The vet concluded that her body condition was not that of an old horse, but that of a malnourished horse, and given that Tubby had a good appetite and no other signs of disease, her cause of weight loss was most likely lack of access to appropriate food for some time.
Around a month into her recovery, Tubby was diagnosed with large intestinal impaction which required surgery.
A veterinarian determined that due to Tubby’s age and body condition, she would not survive the surgery, and she was humanely euthanased.
“This case highlights what SPCA often sees with horse owners – a lack of knowledge, time, and the necessary finances for their care. SPCA Inspectors have to be reasonable and give people opportunities to change.
"It is gut-wrenching that the defendant didn’t take our Inspector’s advice and warnings on board. He failed over a long period to provide her with proper food, leading her to become very malnourished, causing immeasurable suffering,” says Andrea Midgen, SPCA CEO.
“It is heart-breaking that this beautiful animal lived a life of quiet desperation due to the complete inaction of her owner, even when we stepped in to help.”