Ruling against family charged with killing 13 horses in Stouffville delayed until September

A ruling against the family accused of starving horses at a Whitchruch-Stouffville, Ont., farm has been put off until late September. Around 10 former neighbours are pleading with the court to punish the family to the full extent of the law.

An equine veterinarian called it the worst case of neglect he's seen in 36 years

David Small, right, and his son Jason are accused of nine animal-cruelty offences under the Ontario SPCA Act. (Facebook and Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society)

A ruling against the family accused of letting 13 horses die and starving 15 others at a Whitchruch-Stouffville, Ont., farm has been put off until Sep. 21.

David Small, his wife, Victoria, and their 32-year-old son Jason are facing nine animal cruelty charges following an investigation in May by the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA) at a rural property, some 50 kilometres northeast of Toronto.

The family's case was spoken to on Monday at a provincial offences court in Newmarket, but a final ruling has not yet been reached.

The Small family did not attend, but around 10 people — including the property owner, neighbours and the veterinarian who assisted with the OSPCA investigation at the property — say they're committed to following the case to its conclusion.

They are also imploring the Crown to not negotiate a plea deal with the Small family, or reduce the charges in any way.

"The will of this particular community is to make sure that this is heard in court and that they get fully punished for the absolute abuse and terror that they rained down on these animals," said Rae Ierullo, who runs an elderly horse sanctuary across the street from the property the Small's had rented. 

Oscar Calvete, centre, and Rae Ierullo, right, have attended each of the Small family's court appearances. (Martin Trainor/CBC)

She was one of the first people called in to inspect the farm after the property owner, Michael Cheung, first suspected the animals were being neglected or abused.

"I've never been in a barn where the horses are standing in six inches of excrement, with no food, their ribs are sticking out," she remembered of her first visit. "They were in agony, they were starved, they were filthy."

A CBC Toronto investigation later uncovered both David and Jason have a history of theft, fraud and starving animals.  

Thirteen horse corpses were later excavated around the property as part of an OSPCA investigation.

Equine veterinarian Oscar Calvete assisted the investigation. He called it the worst case of animal neglect he's seen in his 36-year career.

The OSPCA discovered 15 emaciated horses on the rural property, described to be in 'thin body condition, with ribs, hips and spine easily visible.' (Oscar Calvete)

"When we see somebody neglecting, ignoring, killing, letting die or whatever, the community has to react and that's what we're trying to do," Calvete said.

He added neglect and abuse is widespread in the horse community and wants to see the Smalls punished for the alleged crimes.

"It's a big country and it's happening everywhere."