Men who hanged horse found guilty of cruelty
Dec 14 2011
Clayton Cunningham: Guilty of animal crueltyPhotograph by: Bruce Stotesbury, timescolonist.com
Two men were found guilty Tuesday in Victoria provincial court of animal cruelty for inadequately feeding a horse before putting it to death by hanging it by ropes from an excavator.
But Judge Susan Wishart found that while Clayton Cunningham and David Whiffin, both of Victoria, allowed 27-year-old Jalupae to starve in the months leading up to the hanging in September 2009, they killed the animal humanely.
The case has raised the ire of animal advocates worldwide. Each hearing, including Tuesday's, attracted placard-carrying protesters outside court calling for justice for Jalupae.
The public outrage had no bearing on the conviction of Cunningham and Whiffin, Wishart said. "Where death is immediate the law does not require the use of the most dignified means," she said. "My decision should not be seen as endorsing or condoning this method of euthanizing an animal. If there was sufficient evidence here to satisfy me that Jalupae died other than immediately my decision would likely be different. That evidence was not present in this case."
Afterwards, the B.C. SPCA issued a statement stating displeasure with the judge's assertion that the horse didn't suffer from hanging. "We deal with horrific animal cruelty every day in our work, but this case was particularly heinous," said Marcie Moriarty, general manager of cruelty investigations.
Whiffin owns a Saanichton acreage which includes several residences. Cunningham lived in a unit adjoining a barn and was the primary caregiver to several horses. Whiffin acquired Jalupae through an Internet ad posted by a Cowichan Valley family that advised the horse would need a special diet and regular filing of his teeth to enable him to get adequate nutrition. Whiffin later said he didn't intend to spend any money on the horse.
An SPCA constable visited the farm after a tip in July 2009 and spoke to Sherry Sabourin, a veterinarian assistant who lived for a time on the Whiffin farm and advised the men on Jalupae's special needs. The constable described Jalupae "as being probably the worse she has ever seen in terms of body weight," said Wishart.
A veterinarian visited the farm on Sept. 10 and assessed Jalupae as in very poor body condition. The vet offered to euthanize the horse but Whiffin said he wanted to wait a few days. His backhoe wasn't working and he would need it to dig a grave. The vet returned a few days later, but Jalupae had disappeared. Cunningham had moved it temporarily to buy time.
On the morning Whiffin hung the horse, he was visited by a friend, Stephen Oulette. "Mr. Cunningham put a rope around Jalupae's neck and tied it onto the excavator and Jalupae just stood there," said Wishart of the witness testimony.
"Mr. Oulette testified that Mr. Whiffin quickly jerked the bucket of the excavator 'where the horse was immediately off the ground, snapped and I saw the horse's limbs go slack and I knew just off the first jerk that the horse had been killed and he wasn't going to suffer,' " Wishart said.
Jalupae did not fight or kick. Oulette said the death was "instantaneous" and said the horse was dead in half a second.
Outside court, Whiffin said he did not want to kill Jalupae, but he was forced to by the SPCA. Cunningham said he fed the horse its special food, but the animal's condition deteriorated due to lack of care by Sabourin. They will be sentenced later.