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Cruelty charges recommended over horse abandonment

February 16, 2009

Belle and Sundance before their rescue.

A crew of six to eight core volunteers dug out a 1km-long trench to a groomed snowmobile trail.

A Canadian animal welfare group has recommended charges be laid against the owner of two horses rescued after volunteers dug a 1km trench through 2m-deep snow.

The British Columbia branch of the SPCA (BC SPCA) has submitted a report to Crown counsel in Prince George recommending charges of animal cruelty be laid in the case of two horses it says were abandoned near McBride, British Columbia, last month.

The dramatic December 23 rescue of a three-year-old mare named Belle and a 14-year-old gelding named Sundance made national news in Canada after volunteers spent a week shovelling the massive trench.

The volunteers braved temperatures as low as -30deg Celsius in the Renshaw Mountains. Their trench linked up with a snowmobile track, which completed the horse's path for freedom.

"We are recommending charges of animal cruelty against the owner of the horses under both the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals Act and the Criminal Code of Canada," said Shawn Eccles, the BC SPCA's chief animal protection officer.

The Prevention of Cruelty of Animals Act, which applies only in British Columbia, and the Criminal Code both carry a maximum fine of $C5000, up to six months in jail and a possible prohibition on owning animals.

While the BC SPCA is responsible for submitting charges, it is up to Crown counsel to determine whether the charges are approved.

Eccles said that the BC SPCA has also determined that the horses will not be returned to their owner.

"The animals are receiving excellent on-going care in their foster homes and a number of people have offered to provide a permanent home for them," he said.



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