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Court hears Strasser welfare case

A Suffolk woman has appeared in court accused of causing unnecessary suffering to a pony by using the Strasser barefoot method of hoofcare.

In a trial over two days in March and one day last week at South East Suffolk Magistrates Court, Mary Jo Kowalski, 52, of Lower Street, Baylham, denied two charges of causing suffering to Brambles between 3 June and 20 July 2004.

Brambles came into Mrs Kowalski’s care in January 2004 after her previous owner could do nothing more to treat her laminitis. The pony was seized by the RSPCA on 20 July 2004 when she was found with “mutilated” hooves, walking with crossed legs and barely able to move.

The court heard Mrs Kowalski had undergone training in the Strasser technique and had kept horses for about 35 years.

Mr Rogers, prosecuting, told the court the soles of Brambles’ hooves had been trimmed away too thinly by Mrs Kowalski.

“The bone had rotated within the foot to an abnormal angle, so it protruded into the sole,” he said, adding that there were abscesses present in the hoof and that a farrier had described it as the worst case of lameness he had ever seen.

Brambles was taken into the care of the International League for the Protection of Horses (ILPH), but despite five months of intensive care, was put down after failing to respond.

Mr Vass, acting for Mrs Kowalski, said: “Mrs Kowalski wanted to give the pony a chance using the Strasser technique because it was clear conventional treatment had not worked.”

Mr Vass admitted a vet was not called to treat Brambles, but stressed that the pony was well fed, well housed and given the freedom to roam.

He added: “With the benefit of hindsight, Mrs Kowalski may have taken on slightly more than she could handle.”

Mr Rogers said: “We are not suggesting Mrs Kowalski was deliberately trying to hurt this pony, but her treatment was the incorrect treatment for the pony and caused her to suffer additional pain.”

He said the Strasser method was the “inappropriate method of treatment”, and had “resulted in mutilation and caused extreme pain”.

“In this case the court is head-to-head with alternative methods,” Mr Rogers said.

Update – 27 July ’06

Mrs Kowalski has been found guilty of causing unnecessary suffering under the Protection of Animals Act, 1911 in court today. She will be sentenced at a later date.

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