The BC SPCA last week told Double D-Lux Trail Riding and Petting Zoo owner Darlene Helkenberg she had 30 days to improve the condition of her horses.
An SPCA officer last week attended Helkenberg’s property on Highway 16 between Smithers and Hazelton to investigate claims of neglect regarding underweight horses.
A social media post with photographs of the horses was last week circulating online and the SPCA has confirmed it opened a case file prompted by a complaint.
No animals have been seized from the property but Helkenberg told The Interior News last week a veterinarian had come to examine the horses for the SPCA.
She said she was subsequently given 30 days to improve their condition, partly by increasing their feed.
Helkenberg said she did not know why some of her horses were underweight because they had received the same amount of food as they had in previous years.
She said only some of her horses were underweight and she had started feeding more to try improve their condition.
In response to negative social media comments, Helkenberg said she wanted the public to know she was looking after her horses.
“The only thing they need to know is I am doing all I can,” she said.
“The vet is involved, always has been when I have horses that have problems … I do look after them and I have other people that care about them that come and help look after them.”
BC SPCA northern region senior animal protection officer Debbie Goodine would not discuss specifics of the case but said the BC SPCA could order an animal’s owner to take remedial action, such as providing veterinary care or providing shelter.
“If we do find animals in distress we then work with that animal owner for one to relieve any animals of distress and … giving education direction,” she said.
Goodine said she was aware of criticism on social media comments claiming the SPCA should have seized the animals.
“My understanding is people were upset because we didn’t seize the animals right away when we attended and that’s kind of the expectation, I think, of the general public a lot of the time,” she said.
“They think that if somebody makes the complaint and the SPCA doesn’t show up and seize animals right away based on that complaint that we’re not doing our job.
“Ultimately, that’s not what the legislation says and that’s not how we enforce or conduct our investigations.”
Goodine said SPCA orders included a timeframe to comply based on the severity of the case and during that time officers continue to monitor the situation.
“If there is no compliance and there is grounds for belief and we believe animals are in distress we can apply for a search warrant and if necessary if there are animals in distress once we execute that warrant, if we obtain it, we can take custody of animals and relieve them of their distress,” said Goodine.