OSPCA lays cruelty charges after finding multiple dead, starving horses on farm

Three people are facing charges after the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals discovered a herd of dead and emaciated horses on a farm. A veterinarian called it the worst case of neglect he's encountered.

Warning: this story contains graphic images

The OSPCA discovered 15 emaciated horses, including this one, at a Stouffville, Ont., farm in early May. (Oscar Calvete)

Three people are facing animal cruelty charges after the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA) discovered multiple dead horses and 15 other horses near starvation at a farm in Stouffville, Ont.

The OSPCA went to the farm, about 50 kilometres northeast of Toronto, on May 3 after hearing concerns about the condition of a herd of horses there.

Upon arrival, the OSPCA said in a news release, it found dead horses around the property in "various levels of decomposition." A veterinarian who assisted the inspection told CBC Toronto there were seven dead horses.

"One of them was already an old carcass … one had probably been dead for three weeks," said Oscar Calvete, an equine veterinarian.

The horses were living in stalls filled with urine, feces and water, according to a vet who helped with the inspection. (Oscar Calvete)

Calvete said it's unclear what killed the horses, but that it's the worst case of animal neglect he's seen in his 36 years of work.

The OSPCA and Calvete also discovered 14 emaciated adult horses and one pony in squalid conditions.

"The horses were in stalls full of mud, feces and water," Calvete said.

The veterinarian said the horses' bones were showing through their skin, while several year-old animals were just 60 per cent of the size they should have been. 

Calvete said he bathed one stallion that was caked in excrement. "The skin was so irritated underneath," he said. "I felt so sorry for him."

Equine veterinarian Oscar Calvete was brought in by the OSCPA to assist with the inspection. (Lisa Xing/CBC)

Calvete said he's seen animal neglect in the past, but never on this scale. 

"Usually you see neglect in one horse that had been abandoned for whatever reason, three horses at the most," he said. "Not a herd of 15."

Charges against 3 caretakers

Three people who were supposed to be looking after the horses are charged with permitting an animal to be in distress, failing to provide adequate food and failing to provide care necessary for general welfare. The charges have been filed under the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.

The accused are scheduled to appear at a provincial court in Newmarket, Ont., on July 6.

Calvete said seven horses, including this one, died at the property. (Oscar Calvete)

​The OSPCA said the horses have been moved away from the farm. 

"The Ontario SPCA continues to monitor their care to ensure all veterinary recommendations are being followed," the organization said in a news release.