A full courtroom in Newmarket witnessed three guilty pleas for the Small family for “permitting an animal to be in distress.”

The court heard the statement of facts which were agreed on and entered into the record. The facts detailed the family’s rental of the farm in Stouffville, Ontario, where 13 horses in their care were discovered dead and another 14 alive but starving and living in squalid conditions.

Jason and Victoria Small were present in court for the first time.

Present for the first time were Jason Leroy Small and Victoria Small; David Small was absent for medical reasons. As a result of his absence, the sentencing submissions have been postponed until April 18th at 1:30 pm. The judge noted her concern that David was not in court despite having ordered his presence at the previous court date.

“I would be unnerved if come April 18th he’s not here,” said Her Worship Debartolo to David’s attorney, Shilpa Pathak. “My expectation is that he will be here and that you will tell him to be here.”

In addition to the sentencing, community impact statements will be delivered. Dr. Sid Freeman, a lawyer and local dressage rider, has been working with the prosecutor to coordinate the address on behalf of those impacted by the incident.

The lawyer representing Jason and Victoria, Calvin Barry, noted that he might present “substantial” mitigating circumstances given that the family had been locked out of the facility.

Having not paid their rent for months, the property owner, Michael Cheung, had called the police for advice and was told to lock them out. The OSPCA quickly advised that as animals were present that was not permitted and the gates were unlocked. At that point, however, a dedicated group of neighbours were already involved in helping care for the surviving horses which were subsequently re-homed.