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‘Skinniest horse I’ve ever seen’ removed from property: Alberta SPCA

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A severely malnourished horse named Marvin is expected to survive after being removed from an Alberta property last month. Sarah Reid reports. – Aug 17, 2022

A severely malnourished horse named Marvin is expected to survive after being removed from a property earlier this summer.

The Alberta SPCA said Marvin was about half the size of a similar horse his age when he came into the organization’s care on July 12. The SPCA originally received a call about a horse that was down and wrapped up in wire.

“When I got there I realized that he was not wrapped up in wire, he was down from malnutrition, lying on the outside of the fence close to the ditch. He was not moving, barely breathing,” Alberta SPCA peace officer Ryan Butterwick said.

“Prior to walking up to the horse, I honestly thought the horse was dead.”

Read more: Alberta SPCA has taken in more than 600 animals this winter; 10 horses found dead

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Butterwick said he got down and sat with Marvin, who had injured his eye while thrashing on the ground.

“He laid sternal for a few moments. At that time he was trying to reach all the grass that was in his reach from lying there,” he said.

“I tried to get him up. There was zero try on his behalf.”

Butterwick and other emergency responders who were at the scene let the horse lay on the ground while a transport truck could be called.

Butterwick said the owners surrendered the yearling, who was removed from the property in such poor condition he could barely walk. The SPCA said his circumstances were “entirely preventable.”

The SPCA said horses were allowed to breed when their owners were already struggling to care for the animals they had. There were other horses and chickens at the property, but Butterwick said they were all in better condition than Marvin.

“Marvin is the skinniest horse I’ve ever seen,” Butterwick said. “I didn’t expect him to survive.

“Every day, the caretaker would phone twice a day morning and night and give an update on how Marvin’s doing, and every time I saw the number come up on the phone I expected this was them looking for authorization to come out and have a vet come out and euthanize him.”

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Marvin the horse (L) was removed from an Alberta property and brought into the care of the Alberta SPCA on July 12, 2022.
Marvin the horse (L) was removed from a property and brought into the care of the Alberta SPCA on July 12, 2022. Courtesy, Alberta SPCA

Marvin’s condition has since improved, but it will still be many months before the horse is well enough to be rehomed.

“I hadn’t seen horses in this condition from my previous job,” Butterwick said, having been a horse trainer for about 20 years. “In the six years I’ve been a peace officer with the Alberta SPCA I’ve not seen a horse in as bad a condition as Marvin.

“I didn’t think he was going to look as good as he does now. The average person probably still looks at him and is like, ‘Oh my word, he’s still pretty thin.’ But he’s night and day different from what he was 36 days ago.”

Read more: Alberta animal shelter in ‘panic mode’ over capacity concerns

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The SPCA said Marvin is just one example of the level of animal neglect recently seen by peace officers, who have experienced a “busy summer” responding to similar calls where animals are suffering because their owners failed to act before the situation became dire.

The number of complaints coming into the Alberta SPCA’s animal distress line have remained consistent, but the organization said the level of animal neglect and the number of animals involved in the calls is increasing.

While difficult economic times are often a factor, the SPCA said they cannot be used as an excuse to let animals suffer.

The SPCA warns animal owners to ensure there are enough homes for the animals in their care. Livestock owners should always have a six-month supply of feed on hand heading into winter.

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“I can’t stress enough that as an animal owner, livestock, you had better have your feed secured by August,” Butterwick said, “and have it secured based that you’re going to be feeding probably by the first of November and you’re going to be feeding ’til the first of June.”

Marvin the horse was removed from a property and brought into the care of the Alberta SPCA on July 12, 2022. Courtesy, Alberta SPCA

Owners who cannot properly care for animals throughout the winter and spring should reduce their numbers, the SPCA stressed.

“Once you have animals in your care, it’s your responsibility to ensure they are healthy and free from distress,” the SPCA said in its news release.

The SPCA said the costs to rehabilitate Marvin will be borne by the organization, which relies heavily on donations to stay afloat.

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