KAMLOOPS – After putting down a second horse, a 19-year veteran in the field of veterinary care says the case of 14 neglected horses, several severely emaciated, is the worst she has ever seen.
Over the month of November 14 horses were removed by the B.C. SPCA from four different locations in the Kamloops area and two had to be euthanized almost immediately while another four went to the Kamloops Large Animal Vet Clinic. One was put down shortly afterwards and a fifth horse was brought in for care.
Last Wednesday, two weeks after coming to the clinic, a fourth horse had to be put down. Dr. Jennifer Jackson says the hoist was being used to help the horse, which continued to lose strength.
“She got weaker and weaker... kept going backwards,” Jackson says, with a bit of a choke in her voice. “She just gave up one night.”
The three remaining horses at the clinic range in (estimated) age of one and a half years old to 24-years-old and while they are doing okay, they are not out of the woods yet. Jackson says anemia, infection, low protein and electrolyte imbalances are among the issues they are dealing with on a daily basis as well as teeth and hoof maintenance.
“We're taking it day by day right now,” she says. “We're optimistic, but being careful, prudent.”
While staff and animal health technician students from Thompson Rivers University, who are donating time to help out, put in extra care and hours for the horses there is still the day to day stuff that needs to be dealt with at the clinic as well.
Jackson says she can't even begin to guess at the extra time, or costs, put into caring for these horses at this point but says the emotional toll has been high for everyone involved.
“It's been exhausting, beyond exhausting,” she says, “all the staff is very tired.”
The severity of the neglect, the young age of the horses and the sheer number of horses needing care has made this the worst case many have ever had to deal with. The early time of year was also a surprise, being only November when much of the ground had frozen over preventing access to any feed. Other horses from the round-up are currently being fostered and monitored by a vet.
The extreme nature of the case led Jackson to put a call out to the public to create an awareness around neglect and reporting.
“These animals were all on major routes (and) no one helped until the advanced stages,” she notes. “Two weeks earlier and the results could've been a lot better.”
Public awareness is bringing in donations to ease the financial burden of caring for such sick animals. Jackson estimates they've received $15,000, and that will go a long way toward treating the very sick animals currently in care. Costs can run as high as $400 per day, per horse depending on the amount of feed, medications and blood work needed. Clinic staff asked that a fifth horse, Fluffy, be brought into the clinic a couple weeks ago based on a fear for her health. They have fully taken over her care and will be responsible for finding her a foster home when she is healthy enough.
The investigation continues and charges have yet to be recommended against the four different owners. Investigations can take month to complete depending on the level of neglect and complexity of the case.
Last December a Vernon rancher who had been running a "horse rescue" pleaded guilty for failing to provide necessities of life to an animal, a charge going back to 2009. Then, 11 horses, including four pregnant mares, were seized from a property near Savona because of starvation, neglect and severe parasite infestations. Two other horses were found dead on the property.
About 60 per cent of investigations in the Kamloops region spreading as far as Quesnel, Lillooet and Chase, deal with livestock. B.C. SPCA animal cruelty officers conduct more than 6,000 investigations in the province every year.
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