Wolumla woman found guilty on horse neglect charges

A WOMAN previously convicted on multiple animal cruelty charges has been found guilty of further neglect in relation to one of her horses in particular.

Janice Northey appeared in Bega Local Court this week on one count each of failing to provide proper and sufficient food, failing to provide vet treatment while in charge of an animal, and hindering a person exercising authority under the Act.

The charges stem from the RSPCA’s seizure of Northey’s aged horse “Max” from a property at Wolumla in February this year.

In handing down his judgment late Thursday, Magistrate Doug Dick said the prosecution’s case was “overwhelming” and Northey was convicted on all three charges.

Magistrate Dick said the maximum penalty for such charges was a $5500 fine for each and, in the case of the first two, six months’ jail.

Northey’s defence lawyer asked for consideration to be given to Northey’s financial position, as well as distress caused by “death threats and a lot of animosity” directed at his client via a Facebook page.

Magistrate Dick placed Northey on a 12-month good behaviour bond and fined her $3000.

All her horses are to be surrendered to the RSPCA and Northey is prohibited from “purchasing, acquiring, taking possession, care or custody of any horse for 10 years”.

She was also ordered to pay court costs and vet fees amounting to $10,759.

In making his determination, Magistrate Dick said many elements to the case were not in dispute by either the prosecution or defendant.

“That Max is an old horse and that there had been extensive dialogue between the RSPCA and Ms Northey is not in dispute,” he said.

He outlined the evidence the RSPCA had visited Northey’s property in mid-2013 and then again in November that year.

As a result of the November visit, Northey was served with a “24M” notice directing her to provide sufficient food and dental care to her horses and specifically referring to Max.

RSPCA Inspector Chris Coddington and vet Tracey Waite returned in February 2014 and judged Max to still be in poor health, making the decision to seize him.

Northey also attended the property on that day and parked across the entry gate and a conversation took place regarding the seizure of Max.

Magistrate Dick said none of that was in debate, but “then the evidence takes several tangents”.

He said it was Inspector Coddington’s belief Max had lost condition between November 2013 and February 2014 and Ms Waite’s statement the paddock in which Max and other horses were being kept comprised mostly toxic African lovegrass, with blackberry and small patches of cooch.

“The evidence does not go so far as to suggest Max’s low body weight was solely the result of worms and Ms Northey’s intensive worming treatment program.

“Her assertion that Max would’ve recovered even if left in her care does not correlate with the evidence.”

Magistrate Dick said Max gained condition and is maintaining better condition in RSPCA care and negative worming results showed Northey’s claims of worm issues did not account for his condition.

“It’s clear the steps taken by Ms Northey are not sufficient to satisfy the directions of the Section 24 notice.”

The previous conviction on 54 counts of animal cruelty resulting in almost $60,000 in combined fines, vet bills and court costs, and a ban from owning horses for 10 years, was made in the absence of Northey and she applied for its annulment.

The decision to reject the annulment is currently under appeal, to be heard by the Bega District Court later this month.