Nairne man convicted of animal ill-treatment for starving horse and failing to treat donkey’s serious injury from ill-fitting halter

A Nairne man who pleaded guilty to failing to feed his horse and treat the animal’s teeth, and allowed his donkey to suffer chronic neglect and serious injury from an ill-fitting halter, has been convicted on animal cruelty charges.

The defendant appeared before Magistrate Harrap in Mount Barker Magistrates Court on Friday the 4th of October. He received an 18-month good behaviour bond in the sum of $200 and was banned from owning animals for 5 years, with the exception of 2 dogs and 1 cat already in his care.

His Honour also ordered the defendant to pay RSPCA South Australia $7510 in legal and veterinary fees.

(Under South Australia’s Animal Welfare Act, maximum penalties for non-aggravated offences involving the ill treatment of an animal are two years in jail or a $20,000 fine. Aggravated offences of animal cruelty can result in maximum penalties of four years in jail or a $50,000 fine.)

Ryan Smith faced charges under South Australia’s Animal Welfare Act in relation to an 18 year old thoroughbred gelding named Cory and a 10 year old female donkey named Thelma.

Smith was accused of failing to provide adequate food to the horse between 24 December 2018 and 1 February 2019 at a property in Nairne. RSPCA South Australia inspectors found the horse in an emaciated condition after receiving a cruelty report from a concerned member of the public.

The horse was also found to have serious dental issues that required urgent and significant veterinary and dentistry care. This included treatment for a chronic sinus infection resulting from the dental issue. RSPCA South Australia enlisted a specialist equine dentist to remove a fractured tooth and flush the sinus cavity, freeing the horse from significant pain associated with the infection.

The donkey was also in poor condition, with her coat heavily infested with parasites, and teeth and hooves showing clear evidence of chronic long-term neglect. In addition, the donkey had serious wounds to her throat and head caused by a halter that had become embedded in her flesh. Once the halter had been removed under anaesthesia, the donkey required extensive veterinary care to recover from the wounds.

The court was told that the defendant had agisted the animals on the property of a third party and had experienced issues in relation to accessing the animals.

Both animals made full recoveries with the support of an RSPCA South Australia rescue partner, the Lincoln Park Horse and Human Rehabilitation Centre. The Centre’s skilled team nursed them back to health and they have now been rehomed.

RSPCA South Australia Chief Inspector Andrea Lewis said the case illustrated the need for all animals to receive daily care including access to quality food and clean water, as well as regular veterinary care. Ms Lewis also urged horse and donkey owners to be mindful of the risks associated with leaving equipment such as halters and rugs on their animals.

“It is shocking that this donkey was left wearing a halter that was so tight it had literally cut into her face and throat, and had to be surgically removed,” Ms Lewis said.

“This animal’s suffering would have been significant.

“Care is needed when using equipment on animals such as halters to ensure they are fitted correctly and checked regularly, with adjustments made when necessary.

“Too often, our inspectors and rescue officers find animals suffering injuries caused by equipment that’s been left on them too long, with no checks made about how comfortably they are fitted.

“Apart from halters, we have seen some really terrible injuries caused by rugs that are either not well fitted or that have slipped to one side.

“Daily checks on animals should include ensuring any equipment on them is not causing them harm.”

RSPCA is the only South Australian charity with legal power to investigate animal cruelty – but inspectors rely on the public to be their eyes and ears. That’s why RSPCA has again launched its Combat Cruelty campaign, which asks South Australians to take the pledge to combat cruelty.

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