R v Cunningham and Whiffen, 2011 BCPC 0358

Whiffen bought a small horse for his children to ride. Cunningham lived on Whiffen’s farm and looked after the horses. The horse was in good condition when it was purchased by Whiffen, and the seller provided him with information on the horse’s special feeding requirements. After one year of living with Whiffen, the horse was emaciated and had lost 300 to 400 pounds.

After many consultations with an SPCA officer, Whiffen said he did not want to put any more money into the horse and that he was left with no choice but to put him down. Whiffen made an appointment with a vet to euthanize the horse. Cunningham removed the horse from the farm without Whiffen’s knowledge, and later euthanized him by tying three ropes around his neck, lifting him with an excavator, and subsequently snapping his neck.

Both accused were found guilty; Whiffen as the owner of the horse and Cunningham as the caretaker. Cunningham and Whiffen were both aware of the horse’s special dietary requirements and did nothing to help the animal, thus failing to provide suitable and adequate food which caused unnecessary suffering.  A witness was able to testify that the horse’s neck snapping caused him immediate death and he did not suffer in that instance.

Acquitted on count 1 – 445(1); guilty on count 2 – 445.1(1)(a); and, judicial stay on count 3 – 446(1)(b)