The accused, Arthur Johns, operated an outfitting business providing horse-packing trips. The accused was charged with wilfully neglecting or failing to provide adequate food or water for the horses in his care.
The winter of 1989/1990, he took 11 of his horses to winter in the Upper Wheaton River Valley of the Yukon. In winter, the area was accessible only by snow machine or on foot. He left the horses there in the valley. He had trucked them to the valley so that they could not find their way out, and decided not to walk them.
Ten of the horses survived the winter; one died. The Court stated that it was clear on the evidence that the horses did not have adequate and that all were malnourished. The evidence satisfied the Court that the horse that died essentially starved. The horse clearly was not being provided with adequate food whatever the immediate cause of death.
The issue then was whether the accused was criminally liable in consequence. The Court stated that Mr. Johns clearly did not intend to starve the horses, and he had successfully wintered horses in the same area in a previous year. The accused says he thought the horses were all right, and he went to their assistance as soon as he found out they were in a poor condition.
The Court stated that the key to wintering horses is supervision as the condition of the horses must be checked at reasonable intervals. In not checking in on the horses, the accused’s actions went beyond a mere failure to exercise reasonable care or a momentary lapse in judgment.
The Court concluded that it would be nonsensical if a person charged with an offence, the essence of which is abandonment of or failure to care for the horses, could say that in abandoning the horses or failing to care for them he had given up control and therefore could not be prosecuted. Therefore, the accused was found guilty as charged.
Source: Case Law