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Sanctuary operator sentenced for neglect of Toppa the pony - 'good intentions not enough'

An Auckland woman has been sentenced to community detention after neglecting a pony, causing what the SPCA calls unnecessary pain and distress.

The pony, named Toppa, was eventually put down. 

Debbie Barker pleaded guilty in the Waitākere District Court to one charge of ill-treatment of a pony.

On Friday she was sentenced to three months’ community detention, 100 hours community work, disqualified from owning any animals for six years, ordered to pay reparations of $860.45 and $282 in solicitors costs.

It came after Toppa was observed in 2016 with light body condition, four overgrown hooves and walking incorrectly.

A notice was left requesting Toppa be seen by a vet, but later inquires discovered the vet was only asked to look at Toppa's eyes.

A visit a week later indicated Toppa was reluctant to move and her hooves had not been treated.

A follow-up visit was made the next day by an equine vet, who recommended Toppa be put down.

Barker said Toppa had been on pain killers and had been seen at Horse Haven by vets many times, but she was unable to provide records.

“Any organisation that purports to be a sanctuary, rescue operation, or animal shelter has a duty of care to the animals in their custody. Good intentions are not enough,” said Andrea Midgen, SPCA chief executive said in a statement. 

“In this case, Toppa was left to suffer for a long time, her condition worsening while she was at Horse Havan. The fact that her condition would have been obvious to any lay person is particularly distressing, as her pain was ignored by those at Horse Havan who should have known better.”
 

Toppa the pony
Toppa the pony Source: SPCA