NSPCA pursues criminal charges over 'cruel' tongue-tying of racehorse

28 May 2019 - 16:43 By ernest mabuza
Horses in the home straight during a race in Cape Town in 2017.
Horses in the home straight during a race in Cape Town in 2017.
Image: Peter Heeger/Gallo Images

The National Council of SPCAs (NSPCAs) said on Tuesday that it had opened a criminal case against a horse owner, trainer and officials at the National Horseracing Authority of Southern Africa (NHA) over their treatment of a thoroughbred horse.

The horse had to be euthanised on the track in January after breaking a leg.

However, what brought the case to the attention of the NSPCA was the manner in which its tongue was tied for the race.

Tongue-tying entails winding a nylon, rubber or leather strap around a horse’s tongue and lower jaw, supposedly to prevent the horse from putting its tongue over the bit and to avoid respiratory issues.

NHA rules allow for horses to race using tongue ties, but they must be reported to the local racing operator representative and approved by a licensed veterinary surgeon or a stipendiary steward, who is appointed by the NHA to ensure safe conduct and the integrity of racing.

NSPCA executive director Marcelle Meredith said although tongue ties are allowed in South Africa, the tongue of the horse in question was tied too tightly.

She said tongue ties needed to be used in the correct way, without causing pain to the animal. She added that every horse's tongue tie needed to be checked thoroughly.

"This was particularly prominent in the case of this horse," she said. "The question is: was the tongue tie checked prior to the race?"

Meredith claimed the horse had its tongue tied "excessively tight, which just took this type of cruelty to a new level".

She said the NSPCA had lodged a criminal complaint at Booysens police station, relying on the Animals Protection Act of 1962. This law makes it an offence for any person to ill-treat or torture any animal.

It also makes it an offence to attach any equipment to an animal that will cause injury or unnecessary suffering.