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‘Experienced’ owner starves horse to death

‘Experienced’ owner starves horse to death

Alison Freemantle-Pilkington, 57, of Papakura was convicted today in the Manukau District Court of neglecting five horses in her care – one of which died of starvation.

Freemantle-Pilkington, who described herself as having had 30 years of experience in owning and handling horses, was sentenced to 220 hours of community work in lieu of a fine, ordered to pay $4562 in costs, and disqualified from owning animals for 5 years.

In July 2010 an SPCA Auckland Inspector found five horses – Jasper, Ace, Star, Aaron, and Benjamin – looking extremely thin in two large paddocks. The Inspector gauged their ‘body score’ at 3.5 out of 10 (5 being ideal).

Although the paddocks were very large and could have been adequate for five horses, there was very little or no grass growth and the horses had no natural feed available. The Inspector phoned the horses’ owner, Ms Freemantle-Pilkington, told her that her horses were very thin and instructed her to feed them more supplementary feed.

During a new inspection the next week, four of the horses had a body score of 3 out of 10. The fifth, Jasper, scored at 2.5 out of 10 and had signs of scouring (equine diarrhoea). The Inspector called a veterinarian to examine the horses. However, the veterinarian could not get close enough to the horses to examine them as they were so unused to being handled.

The Inspector arranged to meet Ms Freemantle-Pilkington and the veterinarian the next morning. The veterinarian examined the horses and the Inspector issued orders under the Animal Welfare Act 1999 for the owner to feed the horses twice a day and provide special care for Jasper, including stabling, medicine, and a blanket.

That evening Jasper died from starvation, acute salmonelosis, bronchopneumonia, and an overwhelming parasitic burden. The Inspector found Jasper dead near the stables the next day.

The Inspector called a veterinarian to conduct a necropsy on Jasper and examine the four remaining horses. The veterinarian recommended that Ace be euthanized on humane grounds. After attempting and failing to contact Ms Freemantle-Pilkington, the Inspector authorised the veterinarian to do so.

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

“Two months later, the surviving horses – Star, Aaron, and Benjamin – were thriving and had good body scores. The main treatment the Auckland SPCA had provided was proper and sufficient food, although we also treated them for rainscald and dewormed them,” says Bob Kerridge, Executive Director, SPCA Auckland.

“These horses have now been forfeited to the care of SPCA Auckland and will be put forward for adoption.

“Although this case does not suggest any deliberate or malicious mistreatment, it does represent an extreme case of neglect with tragic outcomes, results which are simply unacceptable. It also indicates a remarkable lack of understanding of the basic needs of horses by the owner.

“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.

“The sentencing handed down in this case is an appropriate outcome – a lesson has been learned, and a message sent.”


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