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Equine dentist sentenced for smashing pony’s teeth

As a result of a brutally botched dental treatment on a pony, a Wellington equine dentist was last week convicted of ill-treating a pony. Sandfly the Pony
Marten Dijkstra, 49, was sentenced in the Hutt Valley District Court and ordered to pay a fine of $2,500 payable to the SPCA and reparation of $2,500 vet costs payable to the pony’s owner. 

The charge stemmed from an incident in January 2016 when the defendant was engaged, in his capacity as an equine dentist, to perform a routine dental check-up of Sandfly, a chestnut gelding pony. The check-up resulted in the removal of both the lower left and lower right last cheek teeth (311 and 411) hooks.

To do this the defendant used one half of a broken set of molar cutters by setting the flat end of the broken device against the hook of the tooth and using it in the manner of a chisel. As he was not qualified to administer sedation or pain relief, neither were given either pre, or post-treatment.

In March 2016 Sandfly stopped eating. A full oral exam under sedation and radiographs revealed that a half to two thirds of the lower left and lower right cheek teeth (311 and 411) had been cut off. The left lower cheek tooth had distinct changes consistent with periapical infection, indicating that direct pulp exposure had been caused by the cutting.

“The SPCA hopes this judgement will serve as a reminder to Equine lay-dentists, farriers and others responsible for animals, that any treatments that carry risk of causing pain or distress should be discussed with or referred to a veterinarian to avoid cases like this occurring,” says SPCA CEO Andrea Midgen.

“Although some people may see this as a minor offence, it is important to remember that an animal suffered unnecessary pain and distress both during the treatment and for a long period afterward due to poor judgement and incorrect technique used by the defendant.”

Although Sandfly responded well to a course of antibiotics and anti-inflammatory pain relief, because irreversible damage to the pulp tissue has been caused, recurrence of infection is highly likely.

Sandfly is being kept on long-term oral antibiotics and extraction in the long term will be required once this is possible. Although the long-term prognosis for the pony is still guarded, it is hoped that with ongoing veterinary care he will have a full recovery.