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North Okanagan senior receives longest jail sentence in B.C. history for animal cruelty: SPCA

FILE PHOTO: This file photo from 2014 shows some of the horses that were seized from Gary Roberts' farm in Armstrong.
Image Credit: B.C. SPCA
April 18, 2017 - 9:29 AM

VERNON - The B.C. SPCA hopes a jail sentence imposed against a North Okanagan horse owner will be a deterrent for other offenders.

The nine-month jail term handed down against Armstrong senior Gary Roberts is the longest sentence related to an animal cruelty case in B.C. history, the SPCA says in a media release issued this morning, April 18.

Roberts, 72, was originally sentenced to house arrest after being convicted of causing unnecessary pain or suffering to an animal and failing to provide the necessities of life.

He breached the conditions of his house arrest, and on April 12 was ordered to complete his sentence behind bars.

Roberts is also banned from owning animals for 20 years.

Roberts is a former school teacher who owned roughly 130 horses. The SPCA began investigating him about three years ago after receiving complaints from the public, and seized 16 of his horses in December 2014.

B.C. SPCA senior animal protection officer Kathy Woodward says in the release the 16 horses were emaciated and some barely registered on the body conditioning scale used by veterinarians to determine normal body weight.

“Some of them were a 0.5 on the scale of one to nine and three of the horses had to be humanely euthanized because they were in critical distress,” Woodward says.

The remaining horses received treatment and rehabilitation in the care of the SPCA and were rehomed, according to the release.

Roughly 100 horses were sold at a court-ordered auction in 2015.

Woodward says there are up to 30 horses remaining on Roberts’ property but arrangements have been made with his family and friends to care for or sell the animals.

Shawn Eccles, senior manager of cruelty investigations for the SPCA, says he hopes the record jail term handed down in the case will be a deterrent for other offenders who disregard court orders in animal abuse cases.

Roberts has always maintained the SPCA response was overkill and that he was doing his best to care for the large herd. At the time of the investigation, he says he was coping with extreme winter weather conditions making it challenging to feed and water the horses.

Find past stories on Gary Roberts here.


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