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Horse owner outraged over alleged animal abuse by Alberta trainer
Published Monday, March 20, 2017 5:18PM MDT
Last Updated Monday, March 20, 2017 6:38PM MDT
A horse owner east of Olds is concerned about an investigation into the treatment of one of his mares and says the animal was returned to him in poor condition following a training session.
Dean Manuel’s horse, Bea, showed talent as a roping horse and he hired a trainer to work with her so his son could use her to ride in rodeos in the spring.
“My wife videoed him roping off the horse prior to him taking her. He really liked her, everything was good, he roped the heel and dummy with her, everything was great and I thought, you know, perfect combination to what we’re asking to have done,” said Manuel.
When he picked up the 11-year-old Palomino four months later and took her home, he was shocked at her condition.
“She was a bag of bones when I brought her home, an absolute bag of bones. I had to walk, when I first put her in my shop that night, I brought her home and turned the lights on, I walked in and out of my shop three times and I finally said to my wife, look and see if the brand is on her because it ain’t my horse and she said, she’s branded, and I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “Totally destroyed my horse. The girth marks, the sores, bleeding from the nose. She had blood in her urine.”
He took Bea to a vet for treatment and an assessment outlined breathing problems, extreme weight loss and a low white blood cell count from stress and infected sores.
Manuel says the trainer admitted to using Bea for heavy work in extremely cold temperatures.
“Tells me that he had some friends show up there, at their place," said Manuel. “They decided that it was time to pull an inner tube with his buddies across the quarter section of land, in minus 30-some below weather.”
Manuel contacted the SPCA but it has now closed its investigation and he says he was told there was not enough evidence.
“When the SPCA told me yesterday that they’re not going to press charges, they don’t have enough evidence, it’s absolutely unbelievable, absolutely unbelievable,” he said. “They say they have a guideline to follow with the Alberta government and what they had for evidence, didn’t meet the guideline. If the horse was dead, it would have been better because they would have had a guideline that they could’ve followed and then followed up why the horse died.”
CTV News talked to the trainer on Monday about the allegations.
“It was an honest mistake,” he said. “SPCA has investigated and if I did deserve charges I would have got them.”
Alberta SPCA investigates about 2200 cases each year and it finds an animal in distress in about half of those cases.
Last year, 15 charges were laid and of those, 12 resulted in convictions.
“The first thing is the animal is getting the care they need, charges are secondary,” said Roland Lines from the SPCA. “The animal care act is about the bare minimum of animal care and that's what we're enforcing.”
Heather Anderson is the founder of The DAISY Foundation and says there is something wrong with the system if only a small percentage of investigations result in charges.
“If only that amount is being, after that amount of investigations, if only 15 are being charged with actual animal cruelty, that’s just unbelievable,” she said. “They get calls but there’s never enough follow-up so there’s got to be more follow-up on the investigations.”
Bea's health is improving but Manuel says she may not be well enough to ride again and he’ll likely have to replace her.
“I let her out here two weeks ago to roll in that patch of grass right there, she couldn’t get back up. She beat her mouth, put her teeth through her lips, trying to get her legs to work to go back underneath her. I had to run out, in my sock feet, and grab her by the mane and roll her up on her brisket to get her up and that’s no snow, no ice, no nothing, that’s bare ground and she couldn’t do it,” he said. “To replace this horse right now with not even close to what she’s got for ability, is $15,000.
The trainer paid for Bea's first vet bill but more costs have come up and Manuel says it’s not just about monetary compensation.
“To do what this horse went through, and they tell me it all happened in one day, is what the worst of it is. They tell me this all happened in one day. Well when you see this happening, why don’t you stop? Why carry on and put it through to the point, and not only to the point where the horse was, to the point with the holes and stuff in her but the nutrition value and stuff for my horse,” he said. “To see what I’m going through, to see what my wife and kids are going through. I wake up three times a night, still to this day, looking out that kitchen window to make sure this horse is on all four feet.”
Manuel is frustrated and worries it could happen to someone else’s animals if charges are not laid in cases like this.
“It’s frustrating, it’s heart breaking and it’s not right,” he said. “I’m just sick about it. I’m not out to destroy anybody but I want what’s right and I want justice served for what happened to this horse, that’s all I ask.”
He says he is thankful for the support of his neighbours, many of whom stepped up to offer creams and other treatments to help Bea recover.
(With files from Alesia Fieldberg)