Papakura woman convicted of neglecting five horses – one starved to death

Press Release – SPCA Auckland
Alison Freemantle-Pilkington, 57, of Papakura was convicted today in the Manukau District Court of neglecting five horses in her care – one of which died of starvation.

Freemantle-Pilkington, who described herself as having had 30 years of experience in owning and handling horses, was sentenced to 220 hours of community work in lieu of a fine, ordered to pay $4562 in costs, and disqualified from owning animals for 5 years.

In July 2010 an SPCA Auckland Inspector found five horses – Jasper, Ace, Star, Aaron, and Benjamin – looking extremely thin in two large paddocks. The Inspector gauged their ‘body score’ at 3.5 out of 10 (5 being ideal).

Although the paddocks were very large and could have been adequate for five horses, there was very little or no grass growth and the horses had no natural feed available. The Inspector phoned the horses’ owner, Ms Freemantle-Pilkington, told her that her horses were very thin and instructed her to feed them more supplementary feed.

During a new inspection the next week, four of the horses had a body score of 3 out of 10. The fifth, Jasper, scored at 2.5 out of 10 and had signs of scouring (equine diarrhoea). The Inspector called a veterinarian to examine the horses. However, the veterinarian could not get close enough to the horses to examine them as they were so unused to being handled.

The Inspector arranged to meet Ms Freemantle-Pilkington and the veterinarian the next morning. The veterinarian examined the horses and the Inspector issued orders under the Animal Welfare Act 1999 for the owner to feed the horses twice a day and provide special care for Jasper, including stabling, medicine, and a blanket.

That evening Jasper died from starvation, acute salmonelosis, bronchopneumonia, and an overwhelming parasitic burden. The Inspector found Jasper dead near the stables the next day.

The Inspector called a veterinarian to conduct a necropsy on Jasper and examine the four remaining horses. The veterinarian recommended that Ace be euthanized on humane grounds. After attempting and failing to contact Ms Freemantle-Pilkington, the Inspector authorised the veterinarian to do so.

The remaining three horses were emaciated with a body score of 0.5 to 1. They were immediately placed in the care of the SPCA Auckland.

“Two months later, the surviving horses – Star, Aaron, and Benjamin – were thriving and had good body scores. The main treatment the Auckland SPCA had provided was proper and sufficient food, although we also treated them for rainscald and dewormed them,” says Bob Kerridge, Executive Director, SPCA Auckland.

“These horses have now been forfeited to the care of SPCA Auckland and will be put forward for adoption.

“Although this case does not suggest any deliberate or malicious mistreatment, it does represent an extreme case of neglect with tragic outcomes, results which are simply unacceptable. It also indicates a remarkable lack of understanding of the basic needs of horses by the owner.

“Horses are sentient, as are all animals, and accordingly are capable of feeling pain and distress, as these horses undoubtedly did. This is unacceptable and could have been averted if veterinary advice had been sought or the SPCA had been asked to help earlier.

“The sentencing handed down in this case is an appropriate outcome – a lesson has been learned, and a message sent.”

Press Release – Minter Ellison Rudd Watts
Aaron Lloyd and David Tong of Minter Ellison Rudd Watts yesterday obtained a conviction on behalf of the Auckland branch of the SPCA as part of the firm’s commitment to pro bono work. The District Court at Manukau convicted Alison Freemantle-Pilkington, 57, of Papakura for seriously neglecting five horses in her care. Judge Moses ordered her to complete 220 hours of community work, ordered her to pay $4,526.71 in costs, and disqualified her from owning horses for five years.

Ms Freemantle-Pilkington owned a number of horses, which she kept at a property in Karaka. In July 2010, the Auckland SPCA received a complaint from one of her neighbours and so inspected her horses. The inspector found that five of her horses were malnourished and instructed her to feed them. When he returned, he found that she had not adequately done so and that the horses’ condition had worsened significantly.

One horse, Jasper, had signs of scouring and although the inspector ordered that he be stabled and cared for, he died overnight. Another, Ace, showed signs of scouring the next day, so the inspector instructed a vet put him down. The Auckland SPCA uplifted the three remaining horses, which recovered with veterinary attention and proper feed.

The Auckland SPCA charged Ms Freemantle-Pilkington with ill-treating Jasper and Ace and with failing to provide proper food and veterinary attention to the other three horses. Ms Freemantle-Pilkington pled not guilty.

Minter Ellison Rudd Watts prosecuted Ms Freemantle-Pilkington on behalf of the Auckland SPCA. Partner Aaron Lloyd is a member of the SPCA Auckland Pro Bono Panel, a network of experienced lawyers who have agreed to take animal welfare prosecutions for the Auckland SPCA. The firm also provides pro bono legal advice to the SPCA on a number of employment and corporate matters.

Aaron, assisted by David Tong, conducted a six day trial in January and June 2012. Judge Moses found Ms Freemantle-Pilkington guilty of all charges in August 2012, but her lawyer indicated that she would apply to be discharged without conviction.

Aaron and David successfully opposed the application for discharge without conviction and presented the SPCA’s submissions as to sentence. Judge Moses indicated that he would have imposed the fine of $23,000 sought, but instead sentenced Ms Freemantle-Pilkington to 220 hours of community work because she could not afford to pay a substantial fine.

The SPCA is very happy with the result obtained by Minter Ellison Rudd Watts. Auckland SPCA CEO Christine Kalin has said “We’re pleased with the outcome from this prosecution. Minter Ellison Rudd Watts, and Aaron and David, have done a fantastic job. Without support such as theirs we wouldn’t be able to take the cases to prosecution that we do. We hope that this case sends a clear message to people who insist on owning more animals than they can adequately care for: don’t let it get to this stage.”
Notes to editors:

Minter Ellison Rudd Watts occupies a unique position among the New Zealand law firms, being part of the Minter Ellison Legal Group. Worldwide, the Minter Ellison group has over 290 partners and 1,000 other legal staff in New Zealand, Australia, Hong Kong, China and the United Kingdom.

Among New Zealand’s top law firms, Minter Ellison Rudd Watts is recognised by corporate New Zealand and trans-Tasman clients for its market leading corporate and commercial, property, banking and finance, employment, dispute resolution and insolvency law practices. It also has a wealth of experience in the areas of construction, competition, intellectual property, energy and resources, environment, public law, and tax.

 

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