A group of 20 horse advocates gathered at a Provincial Offences Court in Newmarket, Ontario, on July 6th, ready to confront three people charged with animal cruelty. But David Lee Small, his wife Victoria Small and their son, Jason Leroy Small, didn’t show up.

David Lee, Victoria and Jason Leroy have each been charged under the Ontario SPCA Act with permitting an animal to be in distress, failing to provide adequate food and failing to provide care necessary for general welfare. The charges are related to the horrific discovery of 13 dead horses and 15 more that were starving on the Stouffville farm the family was renting.

OSPCA spokesperson Melissa Kosowan, said “The Ontario SPCA is contracted by the province of Ontario to enforce provincial animal welfare legislation. The role of the investigating officer is to collect evidence. If evidence affords information that an offence has occurred, we lay a charge. The matter is then given to the Crown Attorney to prosecute. During a thorough investigation, we laid charges against the three accused. This matter is now in the hands of the courts for prosecution. Any action that is required will be at the discretion of the court.”

A legal representative appeared in court on July 6th on behalf of the Smalls. The matter will be held over until August 13th in order to allow the Smalls to review the evidence against them. If convicted, the maximum penalty for charges under the Ontario SPCA Act is two years in jail, a $60,000 fine or both, for each count.