Justice for Bonnie, an 11 week old thoroughbred foal allegedly killed by a horse trainer.
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I am seeking support from the wider community for further action to be taken against Mr David Gafa. Mr David Gafa is a licensed race horse trainer residing on the Sunshine Coast. Mr Gafa is licensed by the Queensland Racing Integrity Commission. Mr Gafa was recently found not guilty in the criminal court in Maroochydore, Queensland, for the death of Bonnie, an 11 week old thoroughbred foal. It was alleged that Mr Gafa caused significant injuries and prolonged suffering to Bonnie. Mr Gafa was found not guilty of serious animal cruelty or prolonged suffering with intent and not guilty of careless or reckless animal cruelty or prolonged suffering. We are now seeking for the Attorney-General to review the prosecution or the Queensland Racing Integrity Commission's Commissioner and the Minister for Racing to conduct their own Inquiry under the rules of racing with a view to ensuring Mr Gafa's training licence is removed, and he is never allowed to train a race horse again.
The foal, Bonnie, and her mother, were located together at the veterinary property of Mr Bryce. Bonnie was born at the property and was waiting to be transported, along with her mother, back to their owner's property. The owner, Mr O’Neill, approached Mr Gafa, a neighbour of Mr Bryce, seeking assistance to move the Bonnie and her mother. Mr O’Neill explained to Mr Gafa he was unable to travel the distance to regularly check on the animals due to poor health and new treatment he was receiving for cancer at the time this event happened. Although the animals were under care at the property of my Bryce, Mr O'Neill wanted to take them home.
Mr Gafa subsequently entered into a verbal agreement with the owner Mr O'Neill agreeing that Mr Gafa was to ask and use the assistance of Mr David Tinknell, an experience local horse educator, to handle and float the foal as well as her mother to the owners property on the outskirts of Gympie.
Failing to engage the assistance of Mr Tinknell, Mr Gafa instead took the job on himself and when the time came to approach the animals he roped Bonnie with a bowline knot around the foal’s neck. Mr Gafa struggled with the foal for approximately 1.5 hours.
In this struggle Mr Gafa allow the rope to continue to pull tighter and tighter around the foal’s neck. The court heard how the foal kept running away from Mr Gafa, not allowing him anywhere near her. The foal threw herself around and on the ground on a number of occasions to try and release herself from the rope.
Witnesses stated that Bonnie received approximately 30 seconds rest throughout the ordeal when she reared and fell to the ground hitting her head on a post. MR Gafa only allowed the foal to rest on the ground because she looked dazed.
Witnesses to the event attempted to make Mr Gafa stop however he refused to listen and take their advice, continuing to pull on the rope until the foal surrendered to her injuries and exhaustion.
The foal was given a sedation injection at this time under the direction of Mr Bryce via mobile phone communication as Mr Bryce was away from the Sunshine Coast on that day. Mr Bryce instructed for the foal to receive the injection due to the traumatic ordeal and information provided by Miss Duffy, a veterinary nurse.
Photographic and video evidence of the foal Bonne depicted an 11 week animal who appeared to have run the Melbourne Cup. Bonnie was breathing hard blowing bubbles of mucus and blood from her nose. For some unknown reason the Police Prosecutor failed to show these exhibits in court for the jury to witness.
The foal and her mother were subsequently floated the next morning by Mr Gafa and another lady, not to the owner Mr O’Neill's property on the outskirts of Gympie as agreed by both parties, but to Mr Gafa's neighbouring horse training stables / racing property.
In this time it is alleged that Mr Gafa failed to administer proper medical interventions required for the injuries Bonnie displayed.
It is unclear if the foal was able to eat and drink post the incident as the court heard two different stories from Mr Gafa.
It was heard in court that Mr Gafa had tried to call Mr Bryce many times knowing Mr Bryce was away from the Sunshine Coast.
Two days post the incident, whilst Bonnie's owner travelled from Gympie to collect her, Mr Gafa reported the foal had escaped a secure stable yard and was later found dead in a nearby dam on Mr Gafa's property.
The drowning cannot be confirmed as only Mr Gafa has made this statement. No one else has confirmed seeing the foal in the dam.
The Queensland Racing Integrity Commission's Integrity Regulatory Unit were notified to the incident and attended the scene. Investigators conducted an examination of the scene and retrieved the foals body in order to carry out an autopsy.
Investigators also interviewed Mr Gafa. The recording of the interview, lasting for over one and a quarter hours, and clarifying Mr Gafa's version of events, differed from the evidence which Mr Gafa testified to in court. This contraption was inadequately explored by the Police Prosecutor.
After the excavation and retrieval of the foal’s body a post mortem was conducted at Queensland University (Gatton). The court heard from a Veterinary Pathologist, Dr. Helen Owen, the same veterinarian who conducted the post mortem examination, that the foal had suffered from multiple fractures to the upper and lower jaw, a subdural haematoma, rope burn to the neck, and cuts bruises and abrasions. These injuries were consistent with the foal fighting Mr Gafa's inexperienced and violent attempts at restraining her.
Following what I allege to be the failure of the Queensland Police Service Police Prosecutor to conduct a thorough examination and presentation of the evidence in Court, I am seeking justice for Bonnie.
Because of the court findings Mr Gafa can reinstate his Thoroughbred Trainers Licence and to continue in the racing industry.
Mr Gafa can carry on and continue in this manner without considering the long-term effects it might have on animals within his care.
In court he mentioned this treatment and horsemanship was normal practice within the industry. It is not. Mr Gafa could have simply led the mare to his property and the foal would have followed. Mr Gafa should have employed the assistance of an experience horse handler, Mr Tinknell, however failed to do so.
In seeking assistance from the Queensland Racing Integrity Commission, a representative indicated they can not act because Mr Gafa was acquitted in court.
This is incorrect.
The Queensland Racing Integrity Commission are able to conduct an internal inquiry with any findings based on the balance of probabilities and assessing all available evidence.
Animal cruelty needs to taken seriously in our country. The Queensland Racing Integrity Commission needs to stand up and ensure they facilitate this change. This is why the Commission was originally created!
Bonnie has lost her life and her voice to the hands of this creature, Mr Gafa, who should have had the capacity to make better informed judgements, but I haven’t lost my voice and demand Bonnie's story to be told, heard and acted upon.
I demand justice for Bonnie and want to ensure Mr David Gafa is appropriately punished by the Queensland Racing Integrity Commission, ensuring he is never able to treat a racehorse in this manner again.
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