Horses in poor condition, vets tell court

05:17, Jul 17 2013
Court Williamson trial
ACCUSED: Douglas John Williamson and his brother John Blackwood Williamson appear in Christchurch District Court.

Horses from a Halswell property owned by two brothers showed signs of severe malnutrition, a court has been told.

Three veterinarians gave their evidence of the poor condition of the horses on the property in Quaifes Rd, Halswell.

Douglas John Williamson and John Blackwood Williamson, 47, are on trial on a charge of ill treatment of a horse, six charges of wilful ill treatment of horses, and 11 charges of failing to meet the behavioural and physical needs of horses.

The first veterinarian who accompanied an SPCA officer to the property, Dr Amira Mikhail, said there were 24 to 27 horses in a paddock which had very short grass, lots of dirt, and one water trough, with no other feed visible.

The horses were skittish and in a range of conditions, some quite poor with skin issues, and there were too many on the property, she said.

After her report a statutory order was given to the Williamson brothers by the SPCA with instructions for them to feed the horses hay, treat them for lice, worm them and trim their hooves.


She was shown the notice re-issued in December 2009, and said it appeared that nothing had changed in the time between the two notices.

Another veterinarian, Dr Marieke van den Enden, said on March 30, 2010 she and two other veterinarians examined five horses which were in extremely poor condition, all very young and the chances they could develop into healthy grown up horses was very slim.

For example, she said, a 1-year-old horse was the size of a 4-month-old, and could not recover the growth in its bone, internal organs and bowel. All five horses were euthanised.

Dr van den Enden went through the photos of the horses given to the jury and scored them on a scale used by veterinarians, to show them the poor condition some of the horses were found in.

Dr Hamish Rankin said the horses deteriorated so rapidly between his two visits on January 27 and March 26, 2010, that he thought 10 of them would have to be destroyed.

He said the post-mortem of three of the euthanised horses showed they all had similar findings of lack of body muscle, absence of fat tissue under the skin, and the "incredibly remarkable lack of fat deposit in the chest around the heart and abdomen". He described the findings as a sign of severe malnutrition.

The horses had an extensive number of worms in their abdominal cavities, intestines, and free in their cavities. He said the infestation would have been over a long term.

The trial is before Judge Jane Farish and a jury, and expected to continue into next week.

The Press