GRASSY PARK – Inspectors of the Cape of Good Hope SPCA had to obtain a court order to gain access to a property in Grassy Park after the owner denied them access to conduct an inspection, resulting in the confiscation of four Hackney cross saddle horses being kept in poor living conditions and subjected to cruel training methods.
The Cape of Good Hope SPCA received a complaint about horses being kept in poor living conditions on a property in Grassy Park. The complainant also complained about a strong ammonia smell lingering in the air, with flies all over because of the dirty living conditions. This prompted our Inspectors to launch an investigation.
Upon arrival at the Grassy Park property, our Inspectors were denied access by the owner, who insisted that the Inspectors return with a court order. This left our Inspectors with no other option but to approach the Wynberg Magistrates Court for an order in terms of the Animals Protection Act 71 of 1962, read together with Regulation 468, to gain access to the property to investigate.
Execution of Court Order
With court order in hand, our Inspectorate returned to the Grassy Park property accompanied by members of the Grassy Park South African Police Service (SAPS) and the City of Cape Town’s Law Enforcement: Animal Control Unit. Little did our team know what they would find on the property.
When our Inspectors arrived at the property, it started off very suspiciously. A woman was in the front property, insisting that the team wait in front whilst she called the owner. Chief Inspector Jaco Pieterse and Inspector Jeffrey Mfini did not feel comfortable with this arrangement and followed the woman into the property. As the woman entered the back property, with the Inspectors on her heels, she quickly informed the owner that the SPCA was here.
The owner was not very happy with the SPCA being on his property, especially whilst they were busy training one of their horses – using a cruel and archaic training method. The Inspectors were horrified by their findings. A Hackney cross saddle horse stallion was found restrained. His head had been forced down onto his chest, and his neck was forced into a tight hyper flexed arched bow and then tied into this unnatural position. Tight pieces of rope tied from his bridle, through his bit and onto a roller ensured that the poor animal could neither lift nor lower his head at all or move it either side to get the smallest respite from this muscle torture or mouth pain. The horse had been subjected to this suffering for an extended period of time.
“He was drenched in sweat, veins and blood vessels swollen with exertion. The white foam that thickly covered his mouth and entire nose, as well as his wide eyes and tightly tensed facial muscles, spoke volumes as to his extreme state of distress.” said SPCA Chief Inspector Jaco Pieterse
One of the handlers quickly attempted to untie the rope to stop our Inspectors from getting photos and video footage of the cruel training method being applied. Our Inspectors quickly intercepted and managed to gather evidence for criminal prosecution.
Upon further investigation, the Inspectors found three (3) further Hackney cross saddle horses being kept at the back of the residential property in unsuitable stables. There was a strong ammonia smell lingering in the air. It was dark inside the so-called stables, with little to no ventilation. The horses only had access to dirty drinking water, and the living conditions were dirty and unhygienic.
Cruel Training Technique
“This torture technique, almost similar to the Rollkur technique, involves the forced, aggressive, over-flexion of the horse’s neck, with the effect of forcing the horse into an artificial outline demand for competing Hackney horses and holding it in that position for long periods. This is beyond cruelty.” said SPCA Chief Inspector Jaco Pieterse
This practice is extremely cruel and causes extreme mental and physical distress to any animal subjected to this torturous training technique. It holds no benefit to the animal and is a cruel and selfish practice by the owner to improve the animal’s competition performance.
Hyperflexion affects the animal’s ability to breathe in by causing a dynamic obstruction of the upper respiratory tract because of the severe bend collapsing the vocal folds as the huge lungs try to suck air into the body – imagine slowly suffocating as you fight for each breath. The extreme pressure on the parotid gland is evident by excessive salivation.
If used routinely, this torture technique has been known to cause muscle tears, bone spurs and degeneration of the spine due to the vertebrae being forced into an abnormal position.
The owner was very hostile and continuously shouted at our Inspectors. The members of the SAPS had to intervene to try and calm the situation continuously. When our Inspectors informed the owner that his horses would be confiscated, the owner became violent and punched Chief Inspector Jaco Pieterse with a fist and pushed him out of the way, obstructing him and the team from performing their duties. The members of the SAPS immediately intervened.
The members of the SAPS arrested the owner, and our Inspectors laid official criminal charges in terms of the Animals Protection Act 71 of 1962 for animal cruelty, obstruction and further charges for assault.
The owner is set to make a first appearance in the Wynberg Magistrates Court on Thursday, 19 January 2023.
The horses were confiscated, and the team safely loaded the horses into the SPCA horsebox. The horses were taken to the SPCA Horse Care Unit for veterinary examination and further care.
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