Horse and little pony in agony in Antoing

22nd March 2017

 

Friday, March 17, the UBEAW (The Animal Welfare Unit of Wallonia) called us about a severe case of neglect concerning a pony and a horse. We quickly responded to the call and took to the road to rue Neuve in Antoing, a small community in Belgian Picardie in Wallonia.

 

img-news-gauche

Slow deterioration hidden from view

 

Based on the information we received from the veterinary inspector, a family member of the animals’ owner supposedly filed a complaint. The very dramatic situation, even though the facts must have been apparent for some time, had never been brought to light by anyone before. Not in the least because these animals had been locked up most of the time behind a block of garages not visible from the public road.

The person who owns these two equidae, a Shetland pony and a horse, declared that he would gladly dispose of them. It is therefore on this basis that the rescue took place, without the hostility that usually occurs in similar cases.

 

 

 

 

Their condition, a nightmare

 

Behind the buildings, the victims were locked up in a tumbledown makeshift shelter. They were standing in their own manure, piled up 60 cm high in the small box, to the extent that the horse’s head touched the low ceiling. The landlord declared that these animals had not been allowed to leave their shelter for three months (and probably even longer than that).

When we opened the boxes there was some consternation at the sight of the little pony and the horse. The poor wretched souls were in a very bad state. From head to toe covered in their excrements. Missing patches on verminous fur lay bare an inflamed skin, with bloody wounds in places. Lice crawled and glued together in grapes, which fell apart in the hands of our caretakers while they were handling the pony and horse.

On a scale from 1 to 5 (body condition scoring system) they both scored 1, the last stage before death by starvation. Their condition, called cachexia or extreme emaciation, is caused by muscle atrophy, which means that muscle tissue is sacrificed to sustain vital organs, which, if left untreated, will lead to a certain death. Because the little pony only weighed 70 kilos, which is the normal weight of a large breed dog, its severely undernourished body made its head look out of proportion emphasizing the fact that it was as skinny as a rake.

 

Worst case ever in 24 years of animal rescue

 

Most striking was the state of the animals’ hooves. Having determined that the state of the horse’s hooves was a case of extreme degradation, the little pony’s hooves were the subject of a horror case scenario. The overgrown hooves curled twice, in a horn-like shape. The mere shadow of its former self, this pony, looking almost brittle due to its emaciated body, was standing on what looked like mouflon antlers instead of hooves.

In previous interventions we have seen hoof rotations of 180 degrees, but these hooves, which were spiraling twice in a 540 degrees angle (1,5 rotations), were our first heart-rendering case of extreme hoof malformation caused by neglect in the association’s 24 years of existence. The constraint for the pony of its curled hooves can be compared to that of a small child wearing day and night adult sized safety shoes heavy with mud stuck on them.

 

Damning veterinarian report

 

Following a transport secured with thousands of precautionary measures in light of the fragile state of the two animals, the little pony and horse were examined by our veterinarian at the rescue centre. The report discloses as follows:

 

The pony, a gelding of about 18 years of age, no microchip, chestnut coat, has :

  • large overgrown hooves, called ‘Chinese’ hooves, which can only result from its confinement to a box for about 10 years, without any trimming and as a result of permanently standing on manure;
  • multiple joint deformities
  • a coat covered in lice
  • excessive tail length: 30 cm; tail trailing on the floor
  • cachexia (1/5 score on body condition scale)

 

The horse, about 18 years of age, no microchip, grey coat, has :

  • cachexia (1/5 score on body condition scale)
  • a coat covered in lice
  • lack of trimming the hooves for several years with multiple joint deformities

 

It goes without saying that the prognosis of survival of these poor creatures is uncertain.

 

One of our caregivers spent a day providing the first and most urgent care to the rescued couple: in the warmth of a solarium, the horse and the pony were sheared, a first step towards eliminating the vermin infestation. Next was a good shampooing to treat the parasites and the lice.

After having groomed them, we put on comfortable blankets to keep them warm. These little souls were also put on a dietary scheme to restore them to nutritional health, and were prescribed an equine de-worming treatment to eliminate the intestinal parasites. Like all animals that arrive at the rescue centre, they too had to be quarantined upon arrival.

 

Tough job for blacksmith

 

The pony’s stance has been defective for many years, a fact which clearly showed from its contorted posture as it distributed its weight with difficulty over all four legs, trying to maintain its balance. Parts of its body showed malformations due to the years of having long winding horn-like hooves; the latter can be repaired to some extent, but it is unlikely that the damage caused to its joints will be reversible.

 

Twenty-four hours after the survivors had been taken to the rescue centre, our farrier arrived. He was dumbfounded at the sight of these winding misshaped hooves, which is indicative considering the farrier’s 25-year long career. He couldn't saw off the monstrous horny outgrowths of the hooves in one go, because that would cause additional pain. So the farrier chose a gradual trimming in order to relieve the pony, renamed Poly, of its discomfort and to allow it to start developing a (more) normal stance on all four hooves. The correction of the hooves and stance will take at least a year and multiple trimmings.

 

What justice can be done after a decade of torture?

 

It is impossible to imagine what these two animals, victims of extreme animal cruelty, have experienced over the last few years. The ever-present sense of hunger that eats away at them adds to their desperate emotional state. The constant sensations of itching over the whole body, the stench of the manure and the confinement in the inaptly built, damp box paint a grim picture of the ubiquitous suffering that these animals were subjected to for years on end. Minutes seemed like days and days seemed like years; under torture, time seems infinite.

We don’t see how any punishment, no matter how severe, can be equal to the pain the former owner has inflicted on these two victims. Nevertheless, we hope the appointed magistrate will impose the severest penalty possible, ruling out a sentence reduction for goodwill following the immediate and voluntary transfer of ownership of the two equidae to Animaux en Peril. This prompt transfer of property, which seemed a proof of goodwill, was merely an act of opportunism and indifference rather than a display of remorse by the former owner. Besides, what sign of goodwill could ever erase or compensate for the damage done to animals in a case of animal cruelty such as this?

 

In cases of animal abuse, the veterinary inspector sends his report of the offence to the public prosecutor’s office, after which there is a maximum of two months for the case to be reviewed and a decision to be taken as to whether to take the case to court. The punishments imposed in this type of case fluctuate between sentencing the perpetrator to a fine, prison and a ban on keeping animals. Should the prosecutor decide not to prosecute the former owner, the case will be processed in an administrative procedure, in which the only penalty that can be imposed is a fine.

 

Taking into consideration the severity of the case, our association deems the administrative procedure to be inappropriate and unsatisfactory. In case the office of the public prosecutor in Tournai doesn’t show willingness to prosecute the former owner of the badly abused pony and horse, we will take matters into our own hands. Animaux en Péril will then take the case before an examining magistrate in order to have the case brought before a tribunal.

 

 

Calvaire pour deux équidés à Antoing
Calvaire pour deux équidés à Antoing
Calvaire pour deux équidés à Antoing
Calvaire pour deux équidés à Antoing
Calvaire pour deux équidés à Antoing
Calvaire pour deux équidés à Antoing
Calvaire pour deux équidés à Antoing
Calvaire pour deux équidés à Antoing
Calvaire pour deux équidés à Antoing
Calvaire pour deux équidés à Antoing
Calvaire pour deux équidés à Antoing
Calvaire pour deux équidés à Antoing
Calvaire pour deux équidés à Antoing
Calvaire pour deux équidés à Antoing
Calvaire pour deux équidés à Antoing
Calvaire pour deux équidés à Antoing
Calvaire pour deux équidés à Antoing
Calvaire pour deux équidés à Antoing
Calvaire pour deux équidés à Antoing
Calvaire pour deux équidés à Antoing