Midlands farmer denies neglect led to the death of four horses

2009-09-29 00:00

MIDLANDS farmer Murray Smith has denied that he in “any manner” neglected or ill-treated 16 horses in his care between December 2006 and May 2008.

Smith is on trial before Camperdown magistrate Linus Phoswa on three charges relating to the alleged ill-treatment of the horses at Fig Tree farm in Camperdown which resulted in the death of four horses.

The state alleges he failed to treat tick infestation on the farm and horses resulting in “maggot-ridden wounds, abscesses, billary and the death of four horses”; that he left the horses unattended for long periods and that they developed abscesses and cracked hooves; that he failed to provide the animals with fresh, clean, drinkable water and sufficient food and supplements, and that he kept them in a “dirty, parasitic condition” and failed to render veterinary or medical treatment.

In a statement read by defence lawyer Jon White, Smith alleges the “root of all the problems [with his horses] was tick infestation”, and claims the SPCA’s horse care unit’s dipping programme “failed to control the infestation” and that the unit refused to allow him to move the horses from Fig Tree farm.

Smith states he found accommodation for the horses at the old bull station at Baynesfield in January 2008, but Vicky Power from the horse unit refused to allo­w him to move the animals, as there were blackjacks in the field.

Smith maintains that he took reasonable steps to control ticks on the horses, and denies having deprived them of sufficient food or water, as there was sufficient grazing and water on the farm. Their weight loss was “caused directly by tick infestation”, he said.

He said he is a qualified farrier and is experienced in the breeding of, and care of horses.

Smith maintains that Fig Tree Farm was infested with ticks because it was next to a game farm. He lived at Mid-Illovo at the time, but employed a groom for the horses.

According to Smith’s statement, he injected the horses with Dectamax every two months to control ticks and supplied the groom with tick grease, a knapsack sprayer and dip. He maintains that after December 2006, the horse unit instituted its own dipping programme, which was “inadequate when compared with recommendations of KZN University’s agricultural division”.

Power said Dectamax is not a registered tick control treatment for horses and said she recommended a programme of tick control for Smith’s horses, but the unit would not have embarked on a dipping programme on his behalf.

She testified that she visited the farm in response to complaints from the property owners and a neighbour on several occasions between December 2006 and May 2008, and despite the unit’s recommendations to Smith that the horses condition deteriorated.

Some horses had to be moved to the veterinary hospital at Summerveld.

The case is proceeding.

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