Toronto

Woman claims her mare died, another vanished in care of family charged with animal cruelty

A longtime client of a family facing animal cruelty charges for allegedly letting 13 horses die while starving 15 others at a farm in Whitchurch-Stouffville, Ont., says one of her horses died in their care and another disappeared.

Marie-France Anagnostopoulos says she 'can't even reconcile' the death of her horse at Speedsport Stables

Marie-France Anagnostopoulos says her broodmare horse, Go Gin, disappeared in April from the rural property the Small family was renting in Whitchurch-Stouffville, Ont. (Submitted by Marie-France Anagnostopoulos)

A longtime client of a family facing animal cruelty charges for allegedly letting 13 horses die, while starving 15 others, says one of her horses died in their care and another disappeared. 

Marie-France Anagnostopoulos claims one of her horses died in Whitchurch-Stouffville, Ont., at Speedsport Stables, a family-run horse boarding business, in October 2017. 

Last Saturday, the carcasses of 10 horses were dug from the ground of a rural property the company had been renting. Just days earlier, the three other dead horses were discovered by neighbours in a trailer concealed by trees at the back of the farmland. 

"I feel stupid and I'm disgusted," she said. "I'm an animal lover, you know, a horse gets hurt and I feel upside down, inside out, so I can't even reconcile the fact that they would bury horses or that they would have contributed to so many deaths."

The carcasses of 10 horses were unearthed last Saturday. (Martin Trainor/CBC)

Speedsport Stables run by Small family

Speedsport Stables is owned by Victoria "Vicki" Small, according to Ontario corporation records, but its clients say it was a family business. 

David Small, his wife Victoria, and their 32-year-old son Jason are charged with nine animal cruelty offences following an investigation of the rural property by the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA). 

David Small, right, and his family started renting a farm in Whitchurch-Stouffville, Ont., from Michael Cheung, left, last September. (Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society)

The trio are each accused of allowing an animal to be in distress, failing to provide adequate food and failing to provide care necessary for general welfare between April 1 and April 22. If convicted, they could face a maximum penalty of two years in prison, a $60,000 fine, or both, under the OSPCA Act.

'She was like family to me'

Anagnostopoulos bought two broodmare horses from David Small, named Constantina and Go Gin, shortly after she started boarding her daughter's horse with Speedsport Stables in July 2016.

"They told me they were really into racing and they took very good care of their horses. David was like, 'I would never, never hurt a horse.' And I didn't doubt them," she said.   

The Small family started renting this 10-acre farmland and barnyard in Whitchurch-Stouffville, Ont., last September. (Martin Trainor/CBC)

The company was renting a farm in Newmarket, Ont., at the time, before Anagnostopoulos said they were evicted in May 2017 and moved to a temporary location. Speedsport Stables spent the summer there before the business relocated to the property they rented in Whitchurch-Stouffville, Ont., that was then investigated by the OSPCA.  

After the move, Anagnostopoulos says Small told her Constantina, one of her broodmare horses, fell ill and needed to be put down days later at the advice of a equine veterinarian.  

"She was like family to me. She was my favourite broodmare," she explained, noting that she was devastated by her death. "She was just a beautiful animal."

Constantina was euthanized last October, Marie-France Anagnostopoulos says, after she received a call from David Small that she was ill. (Submitted by Marie-France Anagnostopoulos)

The Smalls were supposed to have Constantina's remains cremated, Anagonstopoulos said. 

"I never obviously got her ashes and I never got to see her again." 

This March, Anagonstopoulos moved two horses boarded at Speedsport Stables that belonged to her daughter to a different barn because she suspected they weren't being properly cared for. When she returned to the property in April, she says her second broodmare, Go Gin, who she left to breed with a stallion there, had disappeared. 

"I don't know what happened to her," she said. 

Jason Small denied that his father and Speedsport Stables ever bred horses and says no harm ever came to the animals in the company's care. He told CBC Toronto his parents originally started the company when they retired to rescue abandoned horses and relocate them. 

Have a tip about Speedsport Stables? Send it to Amara McLaughlin at amara.mclaughlin@cbc.ca or 416-205-5747.

About the Author

Amara McLaughlin

Online reporter, CBC Toronto

Amara McLaughlin is a digital journalist at CBC Toronto. Originally from Alberta, she began her journalism career in Calgary but now calls Toronto home. Contact her at: amara.mclaughlin@cbc.ca.