Horse trainer ‘distraught’ over lack of care for animals
AN IPSWICH horse breeder and trainer has pleaded guilty to RSPCA charges of animal neglect after some of her horses were found living in poor conditions.
A court heard some of the animals had eye infections, one foal was found with a broken shoulder, while another horse was found lying in muddy urine and faeces, with her coat covered in mud.
A vet from the Queensland Racing Integrity Commission who attended with RSPCA inspectors in March 2019 recommended the foal be euthanised.
The neglect was attributed to the breeder’s struggling financial situation and having too many animals.
It was defended as not an intentional act of animal cruelty, with the details heard at Ipswich Magistrates Court.
Patricia Arnold, 63, from Bundamba, pleaded guilty to two charges under the Animal Care and Protection Act, including failing to provide appropriate living conditions in March 2019; and failing to provide medical treatment for an animal in her care.
In facts put forward in the RSPCA prosecution by its barrister Adrian Braithwaite, 50 horses were found on her property.
The horses were primarily thoroughbreds with some Anglo Arab types.
Arnold was engaged in horse breeding and trade, and previously trained racehorses.
Three horses became the focus of the charges: A two-year-old Arabian cross horse, a 6-year-old retired thoroughbred chestnut mare named Maovesa, and a 15-year old retired thoroughbred bay mare horse named Cooma Creek.
The investigation began on March 25, 2019 when RSPCA Wacol received a complaint about a foal with a possible broken shoulder, with inspectors told it had not received veterinary treatment in the six weeks since suffering the injury.
Concerns about some horses being underweight, some not having adequate shelter, and one with an ulcerated eye were also raised.
The court heard Arnold was uncooperative with the RSPCA inspector and refused entry to check her horses. She denied there was an injured foal on the property.
Two days later more information was received that Arnold had made attempts to obtain Lethabarb – a drug used to euthanase animals by injection.
When a QRIC veterinarian gained access one horse was found with a chronic fore shoulder injury and unable to bear weight. The prognosis was said to be “very grave” and euthanasia required on humane grounds.
A second horse, Maovesa, was diagnosed with a significant eye injury of the corneal surface with significant discharge.
The mare would be euthanased due to ongoing pain and suffering if alternative treatments did not work.
Cooma Creek, who was found lying in muddy urine and faeces, had an injury to her hind leg, noted to be collapsed with the toe pointing upward.
There was significant swelling and lameness of an opposing limb and an eye injury likely caused from lying in the squalid mud trying to seek relief from standing.
The mare had to be put down immediately.
The veterinarian’s report found the condition of the horses showed their owner had been negligent.
Facilities were found to be poor, some horses were underweight, horses required attention and trimming for their feet, and there were muddy and unclean stables, and a lack of appropriate shelter.
In April 2019 Arnold complied with an official animal welfare direction requiring euthanasia for some of the worst affected animals, with the first two horses and between 10 and 16 other horses sent to the knackery.
There were follow-up visits by inspectors with Arnold gradually co-operating in making improvements.
Mr Braithwaite said the RSPCA sought a two-year supervised probation order as penalty.
Defence barrister Alex Nelson said Arnold had owned and trained horses for 50 years and won many awards at shows.
She had a horse racing licence until 2011 and before being charged had intended to regain the licence.
Mr Nelson said Arnold instructed that her land suffered significantly during drought, but then it had rained two days before the inspectors visited.
She moved horses undercover and did not realise that a roof was leaking.
He said she could not afford a vet but organised a load of sawdust but the delivery did not occur because it was too wet and muddy to gain access.
“It was not her breeding that was the problem. It was the lack of finances and not being able to get a vet,” Mr Nelson said.
“It has left her fairly distraught. She was struggling.”
Mr Nelson said Arnold had since been refused a racing licence and her appeal was now before QCAT.
He said if the magistrate recorded a conviction against Arnold it would “close the door” on her being granted the licence.
He said the RSPCA had gracefully allowed her to keep 20 horses and she wanted to get on with rebuilding her work as she had received no income in the past two years.
Magistrate Dennis Kinsella noted that she had experienced financial issues at the time leading into her offending.
Mr Kinsella said she had not been overly cooperative, with the offences discovered when a search warrant was issued.
“It was a gross breach of duty of care owed to such a majestic creature,” Mr Kinsella said.
“It was not deliberate but arose in your incapacity (to provide) with the number of horses and not having financial means.”
Arnold was sentenced to a two-year probation order.
No conviction was recorded, with Mr Kinsella saying he considered Arnold’s social and economic wellbeing as integral to her ongoing rehabilitation.