Originally written by STEVE ROBERTSON
A CASE of horse neglect that a veterinarian from the RSPCA said was the worst he’d seen in 36 years of practice ended this week in Portland Magistrates’ Court.
After more than two years of investigation and legal manoeuvres, Alexander Godfrey-Smith, 62, of Ellis Rd. Myamyn was found guilty on Monday of unreasonable failure to provide treatment to a sick animal. Magistrate Ron Saines imposed a $1500 fine and ordered the man to pay costs of $678.
Dr Graham Jeffrey of the RSPCA shelter in Pearcedale said that in his 36 years as a vet, he had never seen a horse in such poor body condition or as neglected as this mare was. The mare, which was 34 years old, had to be put down after it developed colic.
The case dates from April 2009 when two RSPCA from Geelong visited the Myamyn property after a tipoff from a Glenelg Shire ranger that an animal was in poor condition. The two officers said they discovered the palomino mare named Carmen looking very thin. They said the owner told them the horse was old and he was waiting for it to die naturally in the paddock.
Godfrey-Smith did arrange for a vet to visit the farm the next day. The vet reported the horse was emaciated and needed to have its feed increased and its teeth filed down.
A year later, three local women riding their horses past the Godfrey-Smith property noticed Carmen still in an extremely poor and emaciated condition.
“A walking skeleton” was the phrase used by one of the women to describe the animal.
In March of last year, inspectors revisited the property. They noted that there was plenty of feed around and the horse was “ravenous” but could not eat because her teeth had not been taken care of. Officers noted a lot of undigested material in the horse’s faces, which to them indicated teeth in poor condition.
Blood and faecal samples also showed an extremely high egg count, suggesting a serious worm burden. A local vet said the horse had not been drenched in a long time, or drenched ineffectively.
On March 30, 2010, RSPCA inspectors Hugh Robinson and Jason Nichols, along with Glenelg Shire rangers and a vet, came to the Ellis Rd property and took the horse away, first to the Glenelg Shire pound, then to Pearcedale. A vet examined Carmen’s teeth and found them very sharp and uneven. The horse had severe ulcers in its mouth and had lost molars.
On a scale where 5 is fat and 0 is very poor, Carmen rated a 0 before she had to be put down.
Dr Paul Owen, who did the post-mortem examination, agreed it was one of the worst cases he had ever seen, with dental disease a strong contributor to the horse’s prolonged suffering. In his opinion, the horse had had no corrective dentistry in the last three to six years. Chewing, he said, would have been especially painful for the animal.
“Anyone who owns a horse that is over 15 years old needs to have its teeth checked yearly,” Inspector Nichols said. “If your horse is losing weight rapidly, have it looked after by a vet.”