Horse in Singapore stable found to be in a poor state
Local stable accused of failing to provide proper medical attention to horse. AVA officer shocked at animal's condition
The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) officer found the horse lying in its stable and it did not get up even when she got close to it.
Its behaviour was already unusual, but its condition was even more shocking, she said.
There was a large wound on its right hind leg, its left thigh was swollen and flies were circling its eyes.
It was also breathing three times more quickly and more heavily than a horse normally would.
"It was obviously in pain. I felt really sorry for the horse," said Dr Wendy Toh, who was then with the AVA.
The former animal welfare officerdescribed her experience to the court on the second day of the trial involving Gallop Stable Singapore, which is accused of failing to provide adequate veterinary attention to the then 17-year-old thoroughbred mare named Sharpy.
The company, which owns three ranches here and one across the Causeway, has pleaded not guilty.
The 20-year-old horse is still with Gallop Stable Singapore.
Yesterday, Dr Toh told the court that she had gone to the Pasir Ris ranch on May 15, 2013, to investigate a complaint about a pony that was tied up.
After finding the pony to be in good condition, she chanced upon Sharpy lying down in its stable and shaking its head to ward off the flies.
She immediately recommended that a veterinarian attend to it.
Its condition that day was so dire that the head of Singapore Turf Club's veterinary department - Dr Jacobus van den Berg, who took the stand yesterday as an expert witness - said he would not have hesitated recommending that Sharpy be put down. (See other report.)
Also taking the stand yesterday was veterinarian Phyllis Yew, who was engaged by the company on May 16, the day after Dr Toh's visit.
Dr Yew testified that she found Sharpy with a fever. There were also numerous sores, and some oozing pus on 85 per cent of its right hind leg.
She said that these sores would have developed six to eight days before her visit.
Defence lawyer Simon Tan said Sharpy had a condition called lymphangitis - inflammation of organs, ducts and glands in its immune system - before Gallop Stable obtained it from Malaysia.
He also said the company staff had hosed the horse with water and got it to walk about to improve its blood circulation days before Dr Toh and Dr Yew's visits - arguing this was an acceptable method to treat the horse's sores and lameness.
Dr Yew agreed that it was a fair treatment, but said the company should have sought medical help when the horse did not get better after two days.
She said she prescribed antibiotics and painkillers and showed the stable staff how to clean the horse's wounds using an anti-bacterial wash.
She also instructed them not to let the horse lie down - as doing so would cause it to shift all its weight onto one side, possibly causing nerve damage.
On May 18, Dr Toh visited Sharpy again, but the horse's condition seemed to have worsened.
After Dr Toh, the attending vet and stable hands hoisted Sharpy to its feet and offered it water, it used its mouth to suck the liquid up, instead of using its tongue to lap the water like normal horses would.
It also ate up the hay that was given to it.
"I've never seen a horse drink like that," she testified on Wednesday, adding that Sharpy drank non-stop for two minutes and ate non-stop for a good 20 to 30 minutes.
Two days later, Dr Yew found that maggots had burrowed into a wound on the horse's leg and she had to dig them out using a pair of forceps.
This means that the wound had not been cleaned for more than six to 12 hours - which is the time it takes for flies to lay the eggs and for them to hatch.
This would not have happened if the staff had cleaned the horse's wounds twice a day, she said.
She said that merely wiping the wounds, even with a piece of tissue, would clean off the eggs as they are not embedded into the flesh.
When Mr Tan asked if the presence of maggots were "inevitable" due to the wound coming into contact with the ground, Dr Yew said she disagreed.
The trial resumes today, with the defence expected to call several company staff as well as another vet to the stand.
If convicted of causing unnecessary suffering to the horse, the company faces a fine of up to $10,000.
Gallop Stable Singapore also made headlines last year when a 73-year-old woman died after she dismounted from a horse, which then fell on her, at its Punggol ranch.
I would have recommended horse be put down: STC vet
Had the 17-year-old thoroughbred mare been from the Singapore Turf Club (STC), its handler would have been prosecuted for negligence, said STC veterinary head Jacobus van den Berg in court yesterday.
Dr van den Berg, who took the stand as an expert witness in the Gallop Stable Singapore trial, was called to perform a secondary assessment on the condition of the thoroughbred mare Sharpy.
His findings, based on photographs of Sharpy as well as Dr Wendy Toh and Dr Phyllis Yew's clinical notes, stated that Sharpy was in dire condition and he even would have recommended the horse be put down.
Dr van den Berg, who has 35 years of experience, pointed out that Sharpy was not given bedding of at least six inches (15.2cm) to lie on, a constant source of food and water, and adequate care, which means at least four staff to turn it over every four to six hours.
"If you want to treat (it) properly, then intense commitment is needed. Someone needs to be at the horse's side (24 hours)," he said.
Dr van den Berg also said that given the injuries on the horse's hind leg, it would have been limping badly.
Defence counsel Simon Tan, in cross-examination, asked Dr van den Berg if he had personally seen the horse.
Dr van den Berg said he did not, but referred to the pictures of the horse's injuries and said: "You must be blind not to call a vet."
"You must be blind not to call a vet."
- STC veterinary head Jacobus van den Berg, referring to pictures of the horse's injuries