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Shearstown woman fined $4,500 in animal cruelty case involving horse

Harbour Grace provincial courthouse.
Harbour Grace provincial courthouse. - File photo

HARBOUR GRACE, NL — A Shearstown woman is facing fines in excess of $4,500 for her involvement in an animal cruelty case as the owner of a horse.

Samantha Tiffany Wilcox, 24, pleaded guilty on April 6 at Harbour Grace Provincial Court to a single-count charge under the Animal Health and Protection Act for causing or permitting an animal to be in distress. She must pay the province $3,533 to cover the cost of treatment and care for the male horse, who is now in good health. Judge William English also issued a $1,000 fine and a 10-year ban preventing Wilcox from owning livestock.

While the option was available to the judge to issue a lifetime ban, English said he felt that would be too harsh, given Wilcox is a young woman who also does volunteer work with horses.

“I wouldn’t want it to be foreclosed forever for a mistake she made at this age,” the judge said.

According to the agreed statement of facts presented in court by Crown prosecutor Richard Deveau, Bay Roberts RCMP was asked to assist provincial conservation officers on Jan. 4, 2017, in checking on the well-being of a horse in Shearstown. The animal in question was Wilcox’s horse Tyson.

The horse’s water source had frozen over and there appeared to be little food available for the animal. The only bale of hay observed was covered from snowfall that occurred two days earlier. There was excrement in the stall, and officers noticed the horse’s stall had not been cleaned for some time.

Conservation officers had checked on Tyson before and determined he had lost weight since their last visit, as his hipbones were visible. Conservation officers informed Wilcox they were going to recommend the provincial veterinarian examine the house.

That visit happened the following day, with conservation officers and police accompanying Dr. Danielle Broaders. The veterinarian determined Tyson was unacceptably thin and appeared to be in distress due to inadequate nutrition. Deveau said Wilcox was at first reluctant to negotiate a care plan. He said Wilcox told the officers she did, in fact, care for the horse and wouldn’t turn it over to others to be looked after. It was eventually decided it would be in Tyson’s best interests to have the animal seized and placed in foster care. Wilcox agreed to this and was co-operative, Deveau said.

The veterinarian did a follow up visit with the animal three weeks later and found Tyson was eating continuously since his arrival. The animal’s strength had also shown noticeable improvement. He had gained 20 per cent in body mass in three weeks.

After Deveau finished reading from the facts, Judge English asked Wilcox if there was anything she wanted to say to the court. Wilcox stated there were four small square bales of hay police and conservation officers did not see on Jan. 4. She admitted the water bucket was frozen, but said there was water approximately 20 feet away from Tyson in the backyard the animal could access. Wilcox said she kept in touch with the veterinarian after Tyson was seized to get updates on how he was doing, adding she did not know where he stayed.

Deveau said the punishment for Wilcox’s guilty plea was a joint submission. The matter was at one point scheduled to proceed to trial, but Wilcox, who was representing herself, decided it was best to resolve the case instead, said Deveau. She has one year to pay the fines. Deveau noted the fine could have been as high as $50,000 under law.

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