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Two Alberta men plead guilty to allowing more than 25 horses to starve to death

VEGREVILLE, Alta. -- Two men accused of allowing more than 25 horses to starve to death at a farm near Andrew, Alta., have pleaded guilty to allowing the animals to be in distress and failure to provide duties of care.

VEGREVILLE, Alta. -- Two men accused of allowing more than 25 horses to starve to death at a farm near Andrew, Alta., have pleaded guilty to allowing the animals to be in distress and failure to provide duties of care.

The men did not appear in the Vegreville court Monday -- their lawyer said they have re-ceived a lot of hate mail and even death threats.

Axel Hinz-Schleuter and Dale Huber were originally charged with 12 counts under the Animal Protection Act of allowing animals to be in distress and failing to provide duties of care.

They pleaded guilty to one count and the other 11 charges were withdrawn by the Crown.

Crown lawyer Moira Vane said she is asking for a maximum fine of $20,000.

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She says it's one of the most serious cases her office has seen and deserves the most seri-ous penalty.

On Feb. 26, Alberta SPCA peace officers seized 100 horses, 40 rabbits, 13 chickens, seven sheep and five goats after receiving several complaints from neighbours.

Carcasses of rabbits, chickens and ducks were also found on the farm.

An agreed statement of facts says the officers found carcasses being eaten a coyote and horses suffering from heavy lice infestation. Most of the animals had no food, water or shel-ter.

Ken Dean, the SPCA's provincial field supervisor, said the pleas are good news to those connected to the case.

"We're very pleased with the early guilty plea in this matter and we consider it a good day," he said.

Defence lawyer Laura Stevens said she will argue for a lesser fine because her clients ac-knowledge their failure and "have very little cash."

However, she said she agreed with a court order banning Huber from owning horses for a decade.

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Schleuter, who has a previous conviction, was banned from owning horses for life.

"This wasn't one animal that suffered," said Hannah Ganley of the Rescue 100 Society, which was formed by horse enthusiasts after the seizure.

"It was on a grand scale and it was a severe case of

neglect."

The surviving horses are being held at Keno Hills Stable in Ardrossen, Alta.

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