SINGAPORE: Horse-riding provider Gallop Stable was fined S$9,000 on Friday (May 19), following a conviction for animal cruelty last month.
A retired racehorse named Sharpy was found in poor condition at the stable's premises in Pasir Ris in May 2013 by Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) vet Dr Wendy Toh when she visited the ranch unannounced.
Dr Toh spotted the 17-year-old mare lying on the ground, breathing heavily and baring its teeth – signs the horse was in pain.
Gallop Stable was subsequently charged for animal cruelty, for “failing to provide (the horse) adequate veterinary attention”.
The stable’s director said he knew Sharpy was ill and had given the horse painkillers. He had also called a vet before being asked to do so by the AVA after its surprise visit, he testified last year.
But the vet, Dr Phyllis Yew, said stable hands had not followed her instructions on cleaning Sharpy’s festering wounds, leading to them becoming infested with maggots. Sharpy had become so sickly that both Dr Yew and Dr Toh recommended the horse be euthanised.
The stable refused.
STABLE SPENT $16,000 ON SHARPY'S CARE
“(The Stable) could have taken the easy, cost-effective route of having Sharpy put down, in accordance with the vets’ advice”, defence lawyer Simon Tan said. “No one would or could have faulted them.”
But the stable “genuinely believed” Sharpy could be saved, Mr Tan said. They spent almost S$16,000 on Sharpy’s medical bills, going so far as to rent special equipment needed for its care.
Sharpy is alive and well today, Mr Tan said, referring the court to videos of the mare “well and recovered (and) galloping in the stable”.
Gallop Stable manages close to 200 horses and ponies across three stables, many of which are retired racehorses like Sharpy, which would have been put down if they had not been adopted by the stable. “My client has given these retired horses a new lease of life”, Mr Tan said.
Far from being cruel, the stable works with several non-profit organisations to provide horse-therapy programs for cancer patients, the disabled and disadvantaged for rehabilitative, educational and therapeutic purposes, Mr Tan said.
He added the stable has since taken measures to prevent “any future incidents of this nature”, including more regular medical checkups. Stable hands have also been told to report and record any injuries or illness, “no matter how small”, and to uphold “requisite standards of care” for the horses.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Gabriel Choong, however, argued a S$10,000 fine should be imposed. Sharpy had suffered for five months before its condition improved, and the horse’s leg is permanently swollen and has left the horse “mildly lame”, the prosecutor said.
Mr Tan, who had asked for a fine of S$5,000, said Gallop Stable will lodge an appeal against the conviction and fine.
'UNNECESSARY PAIN AND SUFFERING'
AVA said in a media statement on Friday night that the mare had experienced unnecessary pain and suffering which could have been mitigated with timely veterinary treatment.
Sharpy had a severely infected lower right hind leg and infected eyes, as well as a swollen left knee which was later diagnosed to be a case of severe hematoma - bleeding with a retained blood clot.
The authority's investigations found that the owner had been self-treating the mare and did not provide it with proper veterinary attention.
AVA instructed Gallop to seek veterinary attention for the horse immediately, and the two independent vets who examined Sharpy later also assessed that it had been subjected to unnecessary suffering.
"AVA condemns animal cruelty and will investigate all feedback on animal cruelty. We will take enforcement action against anyone who has committed an act of cruelty," it said in the statement.