Guilty of animal neglect

An Armstrong man has been found guilty of neglecting horses in his care.

In December 2014, officials with the SPCA executed a warrant at Gary Roberts' property and on Monday, Dec. 19, 2016 Justice Mark Takahashi found him guilty of causing unnecessary pain and suffering to an animal and failing to provide necessities of life for an animal.

“The animals were in terrible condition,” said Takahashi during his ruling in Vernon provincial court, referring to expert testimony that several of the horses were extremely emaciated.

Takahashi acquitted Roberts on a single charge of uttering threats to cause death or bodily harm saying it was not proven beyond a reasonable doubt a threat was directed at anyone in specific.

On the neglect charges, Takahashi said over the span of a year leading up to the seizure of 16 horses, Roberts was told by his own veterinarian and received orders from the SPCA on what steps needed to be taken to better care for the animals.

“It could not be that Mr. Roberts was unaware of their condition,” the judge said.

The orders included more and better feed, more water and adequate shelter. Roberts was also ordered to provide medical attention to some horses that were sickly.

In his ruling, Takahashi pointed out Roberts dismissed the recommendations, instead claiming the feed was adequate and that it would be unwise to separate the mares and foals as he was told to do.

The judge also noted that when Roberts testified on his own behalf, he used profanity, directed anger toward the SPCA and disagreed with veterinarian Brit Mills on several subjects even though he was not an expert.

Roberts had more than 100 horses on his Armstrong property and when the search warrant was executed Mills said all of the animals should be seized. However, the SPCA only had the resources to remove the 16 most sickly animals.

Two of the horses later died and one was euthanized by officials.

North Okanagan SPCA protection officer Kathy Woodward told Castanet at the time of the seizures her office had executed a warrant on the property following a lengthy investigation.

She said officials has noticed a dramatic decline in the health of many of the horses, prompting the warrant.

When her team got on the property they found 16 of the horses were severely malnourished and near death.

“The horses were in distress, as defined in our Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, so they were taken into our care,” Woodward said. “The body condition score of the ones we took custody, ranged between 0.5 and 1.5 out of nine, with five being ideal, so they were in very poor condition.”  

For reference a 1.5 is considered emaciated.

All of the horses were eventually removed from the property and sold at auction.

Roberts will be sentenced early next year.

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