Rhonda Loughhead passes by Saucy at least 10 times every day, driving into Courtenay and back to her rural residence, as part of her daily routine. She’s been doing so for the past four years. And she says she’s had enough.
In her opinion, Saucy is an abused horse.
Loughhead said she has been getting no satisfaction from the SPCA in the matter, so she took her fight to social media, posting a couple of photos of Saucy on Facebook Wednesday night. The photos show what appears to be an undernourished horse with at least 10 ribs visible, and another photo which appears to be rain rot.
“When I first moved here, I started asking neighbours ‘what’s up with the horses? Doesn’t anyone call the SPCA?’ And they were like ‘they won’t do anything.’ But the other day, when it was raining, I was shocked.You could see every bone in that horse’s body.”
There are three horses on the property in question.
The Record was unsuccessful in attempts to speak to the owner of the horse in question, although the owner did speak to Gord Kurbis of CTV Vancouver Island, off-camera.
According to Kurbis, Saucy is 27 years old, and not currently under a vet’s care. The weight loss is recent, because of colic issues.
BC SPCA chief prevention and enforcement officer Marcie Moriarty said the SPCA visited the residence in question, and there is an open file.
“We received a concern from the member of the public,” she said in an interview Friday morning. “Our constable attended and engaged in dialogue with the animal owner regarding some concerns. There was a follow-up, with written instructions to follow, which he is complying with and there is a re-check in seven days.
“If he has completely complied… the file will be closed.”
While Loughhead is getting a lot of support on social media (her post had been shared more than 1,800 times as of Friday afternoon), some people closer to the situation aren’t as quick to condemn the owner.
“He’s not a bad horse owner – they are always fed, he has a farrier come for them, they have shelter,” said a neighbouring horse owner, who asked to remain anonymous. “I think people have an opinion, but old horses don’t always necessarily look like young horses. Young horses tend to be fatter and healthier. It’s just like us; when we get older we get wrinkles and our hair falls out.
“They are not neglected. I understand they don’t look great, but a lot of horses, this time of year, don’t.”
This is not the first time the SPCA has visited the residence, regarding the horses.
“This is an individual that absolutely we have attended to in the past,” said Moriarty. “The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act dictates that we have to give the owner an opportunity to relieve the distress. Without a doubt, there are concerns with respect to his care of some horses in the past. But each time (he has been served orders) he has complied with our instructions. Our only ability to seize horses, for example, is if owners don’t comply with our orders, and the animals remain in distress. We actually get a judge to grant a warrant in those cases.
“In this particular case, with his history, it’s really unfortunate that he wouldn’t just learn his lesson and actually maintain the animals in an adequate condition. But legally, he complies. It is extremely frustrating for us.”
Moriarty said while there is a limit to the number of times the SPCA will attend an individual residence for repeated complaints, she also said there is no set number.
“It really comes down to what a judge would grant in one of those warrants. We have had cases where we have attempted (seizure) and the judge says ‘sorry, no, you will have to go back and give an opportunity,’ and there have been other situations where that warrant is granted.”
Moriarty said she does not believe a warrant has ever been sought for the seizure of the horses off the property in question.
“Not to my knowledge, no. Because he always complies,” she said. “I’d love to be able to give a cut and dry answer, like they are given two opportunities and then the law steps in, but that’s not the way our acts go.
“It’s a frustrating system, absolutely. I have no problem saying it’s frustrating.”