The owner of seven horses seized by provincial officials earlier this month has been charged under the Animal Care Act for failing to provide food, water, and medical care.
“It’s not completely my fault,” said Nancy Martens, 19. “I tried as hard as I could to get these horses out of there and provide them with food, and none of it worked.”
She said she planned to “appeal these charges.”
Martens had been boarding her horses at the Aesgard Ranch, located 60 kilometres north of Winnipeg, since September. A spokeswoman for the Provincial Veterinarian’s Office said the matter is still under investigation, and would not comment on whether the ranch operator could also face charges.
Staff from the provincial vet’s office seized one of Marten’s horses from the property on June 4. The following day, the remaining six animals were taken to Papa’s Ranch Equine Rescue.
“Under the present laws, if you board your horse at a facility you are still legally responsible for what is deemed the care and control of the horse,” said Bonnie Riddell, director of Papa’s Ranch Equine Rescue.
“So even if you are paying money to someone at a stable to look after your horse, if that animal is not properly cared for the legal responsibility can still fall back onto the owner of the animal itself.”
Two of the seven horses had previously been seized by the province after being found without adequate food and water at another boarding facility. Martens had originally purchased them from a meat buyer after being outbid at auction to prevent their slaughter.
Martens, who is unemployed, said she “kind of bit off more than I could chew,” but insisted she was visiting and checking on the animals weekly. She accused ranch owner Arrayl Mason of failing to provide proper care for her animals, and misleading her about the food, water and medical attention they were receiving.
Mason disputes those claims. She said she doesn’t run a boarding facility but took Martens’ horses on as a favour, charging $150 a month per animal in exchange for assistance around the ranch.
“People should get all the facts before they go jumping to conclusions,” Mason said, adding she was told the seized horse was underweight due to a virus, not neglect.
She also said Martens hadn’t visited the horses since mid-April, when they had a dispute over the monthly boarding fee.
Mason also lashed out at some of the demonstrators who gathered outside her property earlier this month, drawing media attention and alleging horses were being starved and neglected. About 100 horse lovers gathered at the ranch, and Mason said some of them came onto her property to take photos.
“I feel very, very violated,” said Mason, who was not home at the time.
Among the demonstrators was Riddell, who confirmed some individuals entered the property, but said it was necessary to document the condition of horses at the ranch.
Meanwhile, Martens said she is looking for work, and that she and her boyfriend are hoping to purchase a farm before year’s end and to relocate the horses there. However, Riddell indicated adoptive homes are being sought for the six horses at her shelter.