Dead horse leads SPCA to discovery of neglected herd

April 17, 2009. Two dead horses and another 11 suffering from starvation, neglect and severe parasite infestations were found in a field on a First Nations reserve in Savona earlier this month.

The 11 survivors were seized by the BC SPCA and animal cruelty charges are pending against the animals? owner.

?The horses, including four pregnant mares, were all extremely emaciated, scoring between one and two on a body composition scale,? said BC SPCA special provincial constable Jamie Wiltse. ?They were also infested with lice and ticks. The ticks were the size of grapes, and the lice on some of the animals were so bad that you couldn?t see their hair.?

Wiltse discovered the animals by accident: Driving by, she saw one of the decomposing horses from her vehicle and pulled over to investigate. She estimates the young horse, which was easily visible from the road, had been dead for about two weeks.

An inspection of two separate properties on the Skeetchestn First Nations Reserve revealed the second dead horse along with the others who were still alive. Their pasture was completely bare and littered with loose wire, metal, glass and wooden boards with nails in them.

A murky marsh at the centre of the property was the horses? only source of water.

Wiltse noted that a bale of moldy hay had recently been dumped for the horses, which, in their current condition, only put them at risk of refeeding syndrome.

?These horses would not have survived without intervention, and in fact, two of them didn?t,? said Wiltse. ?Those now in care have a long road to recovery and will not feel or look like the magnificent creatures they should for many months.?

As four of the mares are pregnant, the BC SPCA is in urgent need of specialized foster homes to help care for them. Experience with horse handling is required, as a number of the horses are not halter-broken.

In addition, their care is extremely expensive. The non-profit BC SPCA welcomes donations to support the society?s cruelty investigations department with ongoing veterinary and rehabilitation costs for seized and surrendered animals. The society spends about $500 per month on each horse in care; in this particular case, the society is also renting a specialized chute to safely contain the horses during their frequent veterinary treatments, which include de-worming and weekly de-lousing. Visit

For more information: Jamie Wiltse, special provincial constable, BC SPCA, 250-571-0897; Shawn Eccles, chief animal protection officer, BC SPCA, 604-709-4668.