Horse dealer gets suspended eight-month jail term for animal cruelty

The man was accused of mistreating various species, including horses, cattle, sheep and dogs. © Keystone / Christian Merz

A court in northeast Switzerland has given a former farmer an eight-month suspended prison sentence in one of the country’s most high-profile animal cruelty cases.

This content was published on March 21, 2023

In its ruling on Tuesday, the district court in canton Thurgau found him guilty of only part of the abuse alleged by the prosecutor. It did not follow the prosecution demand for a prison sentence of more than six years against the 54-year-old man, whose farm was closed in August 2017. The defence had asked for an acquittal, citing defects in the proceedings.

The farmer's ex-girlfriend received a suspended sentence for the offence of seizing animals. After the farm was closed, she went ahead of the police to a mountain pasture also operated by the farmer to seize two horses and place them with a farmer before selling them. Three other co-accused were acquitted, including two butchers.

+ Read more about this high-profile animal cruelty case

According to the court, the defendant was negligent in his treatment of livestock, including horses. However, he was not banned from practising his profession, as the prosecution had also requested.

The court awarded the man CHF6,000 ($6,500) for moral damages due to the "negative" media coverage at the time of the farm's closure in August 2017. Authorities decided to close it because of its poor condition. Horses from the farm were auctioned off in the aftermath. Animals in poor health were slaughtered.

According to the Public Prosecutor's Office, the animals were partially mistreated, kept on far too small an area, poorly maintained, badly fed and deprived of veterinary care. These accusations concern various species, including horses, cattle, sheep and dogs.

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