Gallop Stable found guilty of causing suffering to horse

Sharpy, a chestnut thoroughbred mare, was suffering from various ailments including rotting in its right hind leg. (Photo: AVA)

The horse riding provider that went on trial last May for animal cruelty offences was found guilty on Friday (28 April) for failing to provide adequate veterinary attention and causing unnecessary suffering to a horse under its care.

Gallop Stable Singapore, which manages between 120 and 150 horses in its three stables across Singapore, was convicted on one charge of animal cruelty in the State Courts after the eight-day trial.

The company’s lawyer, Simon Tan, asked for a three-week adjournment to prepare the defence’s mitigation.

In May 2013, Sharpy, a 17-year-old chestnut thoroughbred mare, was found emaciated with a festering wound and swelling in its hind legs, and an eye infection. The infected skin on its right hind leg had been rotting and flies were feeding on the wound.

During the trial, an Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority veterinarian testified that she saw the sick horse at Gallop’s Pasir Ris branch on 15 May 2013. Sharpy was lying down breathing heavily and baring its teeth, which indicated that it was in pain, said Dr Wendy Toh. Its right hind leg looked swollen and painful, she added.

The next day, Dr Phyllis Yew, a veterinarian in private practice, visited the branch and found that Sharpy had a fever. It had pus-filled sores covering most of its lower right hind leg. Sharpy also had conjunctivitis and swollen eyelids.

When presented with photographic evidence from the prosecution to show that Sharpy was suffering on 15 May 2013, two of Gallop’s employees, operations manager Thanabalan Rengasamy and stable coordinator Maneesha Shanker, said that the horse was just resting.

Two prosecution witnesses, Dr Jacobus Stefanus Van Den Berg (Dr Koos), a veterinarian from the Singapore Turf Club (STC) and Dr Yew, had testified that the wound found on Sharpy on 15 May 2013 would have taken four to seven days to rot.

In contrast, Dr Miles Lawrence McNickle, a veterinarian who is a defence witness, gave a lower estimate of two to three days for the rot to set in.

The prosecution pointed out that as Dr Koos was the head of the veterinary department of STC while Dr Miles was a small animal veterinarian in the past 16 years, the opinion from Dr Koos should be given more weight.

On Sharpy’s leg injury, the prosecution dismissed the defence’s argument that it was minor and that the horse had been walking well days before she was seen by Dr Toh. Sharpy would have been suffering from lameness, pain, fever and lower food intake for up to a week before 15 May 2013, the prosecution said.

Given that Gallop is a veteran of the industry with more than a decade of experience, the prosecution said that the provider’s failure to provide veterinary care to Sharpy was unreasonable. For instance, the prosecution pointed out Maneesha had no formal training in horse care and that the 17-year-old was unable to properly assess Sharpy’s condition on 15 May 2013.

In his brief grounds of decision obtained by The Straits Times, District Judge Lim Keng Yeow said that given the severity of Sharpy’s injuries, getting veterinary intervention immediately was a matter of urgency.

“Despite that, no vet has been called and no intention to call a vet has been formed, until the accused was so prompted by Dr Toh’s intervention.”

An omission to call a vet despite knowing Sharpy’s suffering would be “quite unconscionable”, Judge Lim added.

Gallop is expected to be sentenced on 19 May.

For the offence of animal cruelty, Gallop could be fined up to $10,000.