SPCA 'appalled' by woman's treatment of horse

The animal was left tied to a tree with no food for four weeks.
The animal was left tied to a tree with no food for four weeks. Photo credit: SPCA

The SPCA says it is "appalled" by a woman who tied her horse to a tree for four weeks with no food or water.

Tania Harrison was sentenced on Wednesday in the Hutt Valley District Court. She was disqualified from owning horses for 10 years and ordered to pay reparations of $287 and $450 towards legal costs.

The Lower Hutt woman was prosecuted after an SPCA inspector visited her property in March last year after being alerted to the poor condition of a horse named Zorro.

In a statement on Thursday, the SPCA said Zorro's "emaciated figure", tethered 20 metres down a steep bank, could be seen from the property's gravel driveway.

"On closer inspection, Zorro was weak, was struggling to stand, and had a large wound on his right hind leg."

The inspector found there was no grass or viable feed for the animal.

"His spine, ribs and pelvis were prominent and his tether was tangled around several trees reducing its length to approximately 1.5m."

When the inspector attempted to lead Zorro up the driveway to get veterinarian treatment, Zorro "continuously fell backwards, too weak to climb up the steep bank", the SPCA said.

Because the incident happened during the COVID-19 lockdown, a veterinarian was unable to visit the property.  

"After a detailed phone conversation with an equine vet, the decision was made to end Zorro's suffering and he was humanely euthanised."

Andrea Midgen, SPCA's chief executive, said there was no excuse for the owner's treatment of the horse.

"Zorro would have suffered not only physically, but psychologically as well. It's difficult to imagine the suffering Zorro would have experienced in the last weeks of his life, where he was isolated, starving, and in pain,

"Horses are also herd animals, so being alone and tethered tightly on a steep rocky bank, it's just a terrible situation for any animal."

The SPCA said Zorro's owner had admitted to tying him up for three to four weeks because he kept escaping. 

The owner said she had given Zorro water once, but no food as she had no money.

She also said she was going through significant personal issues herself.

Midgen called the situation "entirely avoidable", adding that caring for a horse comes with "significant responsibility".