Charlotte Bright, charged in the deaths of 14 horses between Feb. 1 and April 8, 2023 has elected to be tried by a Court of King's Bench judge without a jury.
Bright was charged with three criminal offences.
The first charge alleges Bright wilfully neglected or failed to provide suitable and adequate food, water, shelter and care to the horses.
The second alleges Bright killed, maimed, wounded or injured horses.
The third charge alleges she wilfully permitted to be caused unnecessary pain, suffering or injury to horses.
Each charge carries a penalty ranging from a $10,000 fine to five years in prison.
Bright would not comment on the charges after Friday's court appearance. In December of last year, Bright told reporters that she would "never intentionally ever harm an animal."
In April, the New Brunswick SPCA discovered the 14 dead horses following an investigation at Bright's farm near Stanley. According to the SPCA, it is the largest number of dead horses discovered in the province.
Tony Porter, the chief animal protection officer with the New Brunswick SPCA, said since the beginning of the pandemic, the number of domesticated animal deaths has increased in the province.
"It's possibly due to the economic problems people are having in some cases, both economical and mental, financial problems they might be having. Things have gotten worse across the province and we all see it."
Tony Porter is the chief animal protection officer for the SPCA in New Brunswick. (Submitted)
Last spring following the discovery of the 14 dead horses, Daniel Allain, who was at the time the minister responsible for animal protection under the Department of Local Government and Local Government Reform, said the department was looking into making the licensing of horses a requirement.
Porter said licensing could help prevent future deaths.
"Any way possible that we can help avoid this thing from happening we will certainly take the proper steps to be able to do that."
Porter said licensing would help the organization determine who owns horses, how many they own, and where in the province they are located.
Porter said the provincial SPCA is receiving an increasing number of calls. Last year, he said, they received more than 3,000 calls.
Porter urges those struggling to care for their animals to contact the New Brunswick SPCA.
"It's hard for people to do that because people are proud, but everyone understands, so just reach out and there is help there."