My horses were seized, with no notice or discussion, and a vet called out who gave a report that is unbelievably incorrect. He couldn't get near 3 of the horses! A second vet found quite differently.
I couldn't believe charges were even laid. In December last year when I had to appear to plead in court, it ended up a "mini hearing" to deal with the RSPCA's request that ownership of my horses be given to them.
I was in no way prepared for this and had no lawyer. The RSPCA got my horses and were to put them up for sale to the highest tender. I was allowed to bid. In February/March this year I got the news from the RSPCA that 2 of my horses had gone to someone else. I had put in the highest tender on the other two but they were declining to let me have them. That day I crumpled and from then on I just didn't know where to turn. I am a long term sufferer (partly recovered) of severe anxiety and depression.
My anxiety led to emotional paralysis to the degree I was unable to reach out for legal help and ended up in court on July 9th unprepared, unrepresented and distraught. After some discussions with the RSPCA barrister, solicitor and Inspector, it came up that the RSPCA "might" still have my two horses they had told me were sold. I broke down when they said this and they went on to say that "maybe I could have one back". They said they had to confirm if the RSPCA still in fact had the horses, and went away, and came back with that confirmation. At that point I said something I hadn't planned to say. I said if you give me back 3 of them I WILL PLEAD GUILTY.
You should have seen the barrister's eyes nearly pop out of his head. They agreed to give me two. So I did, and the magistrate came down very hard in his comments. I realised that he had been given information about the case that I had in no way countered, even though it was mostly untrue and misleading, bordering on lies. It was too late. I wasn't allowed say anything else by then.
I thought "I can live with this". I had the option to appeal the sentence and I got Matangi and Meninga back. Then things got much, much worse. Two days later a most damning article appeared on the front page of the local paper with blazing headlines, again incorrect but even more so, with my name and address, which was released by the RSPCA.
Animals are my life and my profession. I have Bachelor of Science in Agriculture, majoring in animal husbandry from the University of Sydney, and a Graduate Diploma in Education. I am still involved in teaching agriculture on a casual basis at the local high school. I have a few pupils I train, or train their horses. I have competed in equestrian events, judged dressage and am a breeder of warmbloods.
RSPCA have accused me of being a suspected animal hoarder and I have seen their agenda on this matter which I find appalling. It is overtly discriminatory against women and other groups. It is stigmatizing to mental illness and at the same time it is calling on the medical community to create a diagnosis of animal hoarding ,and on parliament to legislate it as a crime, with very harsh penalties. Where is the sense in this??????? Surely this is cruelty in the extreme, but to the human animal. I'm just appalled. It's been hard to write this. I didn't even understand that these were criminal charges that I was agreeing to plead guilty on.
I have lodged an appeal this week and I badly need good expert legal advice but I have no money and haven't been able to work.
Body Scoring of Horses
I (foolishly) went to a record of interview with the RSPCA 6 days after they seized my horses. I have both the transcript and tape. I took an independent support person with a scientific background. Most of the interview was me trying to establish under which condition scoring system we would be working. It seems the answer was, “Any system we like. “ The Team Leader acted like a big bully and clearly thought I was just being smart when I demanded to know how the animals were being assessed. He tried to pin me down on a 5 point scale. In fact I was trying to establish that only one of my horses could possibly have dropped below an acceptable level and they should never have seized the others regardless. I was hoping to convince them they had made a mistake and to release at least the 3 who were OK back to me. Of course it didn't work.
When things came to court I found that the assessment wasn't in anyway standarD. A vet who had been called to the scene originally had told the Inspector that 3 were emaciated, even though he actually could only get near one and thus was unable to perform a body condition assessment which is by definition a hands on procedure. I think this was the reason for the seizure. But in his written report he had completely different terminology, saying 2 were very poor, one was poor and one light, on a 5 point scale. A second vet examination which was conducted more correctly came back with one condition score 2.5, two at 1 to 2, and one at 1, with different verbal descriptors. This is simply unacceptable as it is too difficult for lawyers and magistrates to comprehend and compare. There are standard systems in place. Why aren't they used?