House arrest for woman whose neglect led to the death of 12 horses near Stanley

A New Brunswick woman will serve house arrest for her neglect of 12 horses that were found dead on her former property near Stanley in spring 2023.

Court of King's Bench Justice E. Thomas Christie sentenced Charlotte Bright, 76, to six months of house arrest, to be followed by six months under a curfew order.

Following that, she'll have to spend another 12 months under the conditions that she attend counselling, report to a corrections supervisor and be of good behaviour, followed by 12 months of probation.

She will also have to pay $7,851.10 in restitution to the New Brunswick SPCA.

But seemingly the harshest punishment Bright faced from Christie was the order that she never again possess any animal, including the Australian shepherd that was waiting for her in her pickup truck, parked outside the courthouse.

"I really don't understand that, your honour, but you just signed my death sentence," she said, in response to the order.

Once Monday's proceedings were over, SPCA officers walked out to her truck and took the dog away in a crate.

Neglect of horses was 'abhorrent', says judge

Bright's sentence stemmed from her two-count conviction on charges that she wilfully neglected or failed to provide suitable and adequate food, water, shelter and care to horses and that she wilfully permitted to cause pain, suffering or injury to horses.

A third charge, alleging Bright maimed, wounded or injured the horses, was withdrawn by the Crown.

The convictions came after New Brunswick SPCA officers discovered the bodies of 12 horses in a barn on her property in Currieburg, about 45 kilometres north of Fredericton, on April 8, 2023.

New Brunswick SPCA officers seized Charlotte Bright's dog after part of a judge's sentence included that she never possess any animal again in her life.
New Brunswick SPCA officers seized Charlotte Bright's dog after a judge's sentence included that she never possess any animal again in her life. (Aidan Cox/CBC)

Another five severely emaciated and dehydrated horses were also found on the property.

"To have let 12 animals suffer and die, because they weren't provided the basic necessities of life, is abhorrent and should be abhorrent to the principles that this society ought to strive to uphold," said Christie, before sentencing Bright.

Bright, who was self-represented, had previously pleaded guilty to those charges.

Still, she attempted to deflect blame by blaming the death of the horses on the theory that their hay had been contaminated by raccoon urine.

She also claimed the horses had been transported to her property from Ontario less than a month before their deaths, and that they'd arrived already in poor condition.

She also claimed she was unable to find any large animal veterinarians in the area to treat them.

"The horses came home in poor shape. They had barely been there for much time," she said.

Crown prosecutor Geoffrey Hutchin said a necropsy report of the horses showed no indication they'd died from eating tainted hay, but rather that they were emaciated and dehydrated.

Caveat to house arrest

Part of Monday's proceeding was spent discussing how Bright would be able to fulfil the order of house arrest while being homeless.

Bright didn't explain how she'd gone from owning 17 horses and a home to being homeless, but told Christie she'd last been living in a cabin on the property of her former neighbour's home.

However, she said she had to vacate it as she wasn't able to let her dog roam freely on the property.

Since then, she said she and her dog had been living in her pickup truck, with the goal of purchasing another property using the $40,000 she earns annually.

Given the circumstances, Christie ordered her house arrest to begin once Bright finds a place to live.