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Serravalle Pistoiese, three horse shut in for a year, an emaciated filly: ASL declares the horses are all in good condition

10/09/2014

(10 September 2014)

Yet another report of a possible cruelty case, this time some horses in the province of Pistoia, has brought to light a situation which the local Authorities have actually known about for a year. But what took place on Monday 8 September left us utterly dumbfounded.

Let us take a step back: on 30 August, following some reports from townspeople, volunteers from the ENPA* visited the site and found three horses shut inside small looseboxes. There was a stallion shut into a small box with a tiny window that he could poke his muzzle through; a mare and foal in another brick box, so filthy with excrement accumulated over time that mushrooms were growing in it, and the horses standing with their feet immersed in it. The water container was full of worms and encrusted filth. No trace of food. No trace of hoofprints outside those walls (apart from the fact that there is no fenced area outside the boxes anyway). There are inhabited houses just a few metres away.

ENPA referred the matter to the Polizia Municipale*, and ascertained that already on 20/12/2013 the local authorities had issued some recommendations regarding this set-up.
Given the current situation, the IHP horse vet was called in to assess the animals on the basis of what could be ascertained from outside the boxes: the filly foal is clearly far too thin, and in addition has distorted limbs and insufficient skeletro-muscular development (due most likely to the lack of movement), milky coloured urine, and various abrasions and cuts. We therefore called the ASL* to intervene immediately, but basing their judgement on some change in the attitude of the owner, they decided to defer any action to the following week, without providing us with a clear explanation.

In the absence of any action over the following days, IHP put pressure on the local Authorities via the Ministry of Health. The desired result was obtained, and a legal seizure was organised for Monday 8 September. The ASL itself requested assistance from IHP for the operation plus housing for the sequestered animals pending a judgement, while ENPA undertook to take care of the transport of the animals. The Prosecutor’s office in Pistoia signed the order for seizure and finally, in late morning, the Polizia Municipale and the ASL arrived at the place where the horses were.
At that point the owner and the authorities went into deep consultation, from which discussion ENPA and IHP were excluded. After about two hours the ASL vets declared that the seizure would not take place, because in their opinion the animals were not being mistreated, given that in the meantime the boxes had been cleaned and the owner had declared that he was waiting for planning permission for a paddock.

ENPA and IHP attempted to point out that the horses had already been shut inside totally inadequate spaces for a year, that there was no clear and guaranteed indication that their situation would improve, that the foal was exceedingly thin, and that proper veterinary examinations had not been carried out, only visual assessment from outside the boxes, that the ASL vets were supposed to ensure the animals’ wellbeing and therefore also the conditions in which they were kept - but nothing made any impression on the ASL3 Pistoia vets who - incredibly - declared that the animals are kept in conditions conducive to their wellbeing.

“This is our story of a surreal day in which the ASL, who in the morning had concurred in a legal seizure, goes back on its word and declares everything is OK” - states Sonny Richichi, president of IHP - “We will keep going until we obtain an immediate intervention to remove the horses from those conditions and to order an examination by a competent vet.”

* ASL = Local Health Agency
Polizia Municipale = Local Police
ENPA = Ente Nazionale Protezione Animali (most important italian association for animal rights)

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