Disabled boy to lose his tiny pony because the neighbours don't like the smell

A disabled boy in a rural Ontario town may have to give up the miniature pony that he rides as part of his therapy and for his basic mobility. The family's neighbours (who border on a friggin' cow farm) have complained about the smell.

The boy can’t walk or crawl, and Emily is part of his therapy regime.

“When we take him off the pony he cries. Even if he’s tired he doesn’t want to leave her,’’ his mother, Antonia Spiteri, said today.

But at the end of July, the town notified the Spiteris the pony had to be removed due to the complaints...

‘‘The cows go right up to their property too. We thought, ‘You’re kidding – seven cows to one miniature pony?’ We were quite shocked by what we thought was a joke at first.”

Caledon bylaw enforcement manager Glenn Blakely said the Spiteris’ one-acre property is zoned as rural residential and is too small to house a miniature pony.

Town threatens to evict disabled boy’s pony (via Mighty God King)


  1. People next to a cow farm in a rural neighborhood complaining about the smell of a miniature pony?
    I call evil fxxxers who don’t like a disabled boy having even a smidgen of happiness in his life.

  2. This is why I hate our race now and then.
    It is obvious this little boy isn’t going to have the best life possible, no offense, so why take something away from him that will offer him happiness?

    These ignorant apes next door need to be reminded not to take the simplest things for granted.

    Also, they need to insert red-hot pokers up their noses to avoid the smell IF IT IS SO BAD THAT THEY CANT ALLOW A POOR LITTLE DISABLED BOY FROM HAVING A LEAST A FEW FOND MEMORIES OF CHILDHOOD.

    And kudos to the single mom for fighting this to the end.

    If there was a petition to sign against this ridiculously insensitive act of anti-compassion, I WOULD SIGN IT IN BLOOD.

    Tch, humans.

  3. $800. to appear before a committee and another $345. to circulate their application? WTWTF?

    God, it pisses me off when neighbors act like assholes to families with disabled children. What kind of fuckers are these?

    Anyone know how to get in touch with this mom?

  4. “We already had problems with the neighbour harassing us throughout the summer about bonfires on our property,’’ said Ms. Spiteri. ‘‘We thought ‘Oh, they’ve been told they can’t complain about that, so this is the new avenue they’re taking’.”

  5. Me too. I hate people. I don’t know how anyone can have any positive self-esteem when we are such despicable and paltry fuck-ups.

  6. Greetings

    Its too damn bad that people act like that but they do all to often BUT she has to kick this upstairs out of the hands of the ‘civil service’ types and find somebody that runs for office – councilor,mayor, or MP or whatever

    Let a real live elected politician tell a little cripple kid their killing his pony then post it on You Tube…

  7. Au contraire, Jane Kansas. I have plenty of self-esteem after reading this story. Compared to people who want to take away part of a disabled kid’s therapy, I’m like Mother Fucking Teresa over here. My self-esteem has just skyrocketed.

  8. Your nose’s sensors become immune to smell after a few minutes, so I doubt that’s the real issue. Perhaps they’re mistaking the cow odor for pony odor.

    Or perhaps they’re just [fill in the blank]s.

  9. Let me guess. The complaining neighbour moved away from Toronto because they thought the air in rural areas was fresh and clean and no one told them that animal shit smells bad. Don’t move out of the city expecting things to smell wonderful. There are still bad smells, they’re just different bad smells than the ones in the city.

    Also, seven cows? Obviously a hobby farm.

  10. What really bugs me about this is that, even for all our scientific advancement in this day and age, we still can’t breed an odor-neutral pony. We put men on the moon for fuck’s sake. What’s so hard about deodorizing a miniature horse!? COME ON PEOPLE! POOL YOUR RESOURCES!

  11. Did it cost the neighbors $1000 dollars to file their complaint? But it costs that much to respond? Something deeply wrong in that.

    The old remedy for a bad stink (in hospitals, crime scenes and janitorial work) is a bit of vap-o-rub under the nose.

    I’d suggest buying these sensitive neighbors some of that fine product. Perhaps, a thousand dollars worth?

  12. While I certainly feel for this boy’s plight and hope he can live a happy life, one acre is pretty small to keep a pony on.

  13. To Ms. Jane Kansas, I could not agree more.

    And to POISONEDV. My deepest and most sincere regards for using incorrect vocabulary in your most divine presence.

    Forgive me for erring while typing in a fury of sorts.

    Tch, case in point.

  14. Action people – find the petition, get it going. Don’t let these nasty sods ruin this kid’s life.

    Do something all. Principles and high values are wonderful until SOMETHING NEEDS TO HAPPEN.

    So do it. Any lawyers out there? Deluge the town hall with disgusted complaints.

    Action please. Make it happen.

  15. I’m loath to e-mail the family, I’m sure they have lots of stuff to do rather than read loads of e-mails, but if anyone finds a way to donate to cover their costs let us all know. I can’t see petitions are going to do much, but I’d be happy to pony up some cash to help them. Looking after disabled kids is a full time and very expensive business.

    It really bugs me when the legal process is so screwed up and imbalanced like this. It takes the law out of the hands of the ordinary person.

    Asshats like this also make my blood boil. There is clearly history between the two families, but you have to be a stone cold bastard to take it out on a disabled three year old.

    And why do these people always go straight for the legal trigger, rather than actually talking it out?


  16. Hi all.

    Before getting too worked up, remember we don’t live in that town, and zoning laws are legal obligations, even if they seem ridiculous in this case. If you read the article helpfully linked by minphoenix, the family needed to submit their application for reconsideration by 12 November.

    I have, however, written to the mom in question — feel free to criticise or follow suit!

    Dear Ms Spiteri,

    I have heard through the grapevine that you are in the midst of a dispute with your neighbours about the possibilities to keep your son’s pony on your property. I wouldn’t want to weigh in too strongly without living in your town or having seen what your property is like, but I understand there’s a question of the legal fees you may incur in applying for an exemption to your property’s zoning (I assume this application has been made by now). Please let me know if you have had trouble meeting these costs, and/or if there is anything useful that non-community-members can do in your support.

    With best wishes,

  17. I’ve been to Caledon. It’s farm country. Why do people move to farm country if they’re disgusted by the faint odour of pony shit? If it doesn’t already smell like manure there, it probably did five years ago anyways.

  18. the swines.

    maybe i’m used to it, but i have a field of about 6 horses to the front and side, with a mix of sheep and cows behind, along with a busy bridleway directly behind my house, the smell has never once bothered me at all.

    there is something seriously wrong with those people

  19. Once again the human race succeeds in disappointing…

    As others have stated above I would be willing to donate (pony up!) some cash to help them out. Is there any way we could make this happen through BoingBoing?

    Moderaters? any ideas?

  20. Gee, I hope no-one goes and does something karmic – like dump a metric ton of pony shit on the neighbors porch. Because that would be wrong.

  21. Just one more reason why intelligent extraterrestrial beings avoid (or would rather destroy) our planet.

  22. Ya know, some people are mean, and some people make poor decisions.

    This seems to be a zoning issue, and, as such, needed to be resolved legally prior to the purchase of the pony. By ignoring that responsibility these folks provided the tool that the mean spirited neighbor is now using.

    It’s a shame that there isn’t a simpler solution to this, but rezoning is the answer.


    That is true, but at the same time it doesn’t stop the neighbour from being mean asshats. There are other ways to approach this problem, but they chose to reach for the legel action.

    Also, just because something is “the law” doesn’t make it right. A just legal system is able to exercise discretion. The same goes for civil authorities. This is the sort of thing that gives bureaucrats a bad name, working the technical aspect of the law without much concern for the fact that real people may be affected.


  24. I grew up on a riding school (no, not in one of the stables). Most horse-related whiffs are inoffensive, but the only thing I could never get used to was the smell of aging horse pee. But THAT was from 20-odd horses – I can’t imagine one small pony overwhelming the air with ammonia smells, especially not against the olfactory cacophony of seven cows. Which leaves me to conclude, as others have, that this is an escalating case of bad neighbour-ism.

  25. Country issue, bah! I live in the city, and when the wind blows right, the leavings of my neighbors’ mean bulldogs are quite pungent. Does that mean I can get them to remove their dogs so that I can have lunch on my back deck in peace?

    So, anyone who gets information, either from the city or from the mother (or both), about how folks can be helpful, can you post it here? A petition or a collection or something?

  26. The mother needs to get a prescription for this equine therapy, and get an ADA lawyer on it. Surely she can find someone who will do it pro bono.

  27. Coming from someone who lives in this community, I am disgusted. I have contacted a few other organizations who can hopefully help these people. Its unfortunate that it is zoned the way it is, and that it takes a while to get things re zoned.
    I am praying for them.

  28. I live just west of Caledon. The whole area has a foundation based on farming, and Caledon is one of the highest concentration of horse farms in the region.

    The community professes itself to be the “Greenest Town in Canada”. I guess that is more a marketing scheme, that a commitment to nature.

    I wrote town council thanks to the contact information provided, and hope that with enough support, morally right will triumph.

    Sam, Emily, and Antonia, keep up the fight.

  29. It seems to be a zoning issue – get a life. How can anyone possibly override the depreciation this would cause to this boy’s life with paper zoning rules?

    If he lived in Manhattan, I would get it. But in rural Ontario? Please.

    For those not vehemently angry about this, it would appear there is no-one with any kind of disability in the orbit of your lives. If not, how can you possibly expect to empathise with anyone else at all, if they’re all so perfect?

    I’m surprised to see anyone posting on here not in agreement – this is boingboing, not the dailyblackshirt.com.

    Don’t let up – press the council to throw out this ridiculous issue, in whatever manner they can.

    Truly, I’m so disgusted. Please take action now.

  30. Facebook – Caledon Spiteri, look in groups. But contact town of Caledon directly. #40 go for re-programming.

  31. Is it just me, or does he look like a badass future warrior on that thing? The telephone pole in the background looks like an antennae attached to his helmet.

  32. Maybe I need to work on finding where my soul ran off to, but: the property isn’t zoned for a horse, they have a horse. Rules are rules, and it’s up to the family to find a solution to the problem that resulted from them breaking the rules. Sucks for the child but laws shouldn’t discriminate one way or another.

  33. Here’s the buried lede: ‘… one-acre property is zoned as rural residential and is too small to house a miniature pony. … “Animals need room to graze in and move around and be fair to the animal. If you get smaller lots it really restricts the area that the horse in this case can move around.”‘

    Yes, the complaints of a pony next to a cow pasture are ridiculous. But a more accurate headline would be “Stupid neighbors complain about the smell of disabled boy’s illegally-housed pony.”

    I mean, we can rail against zoning laws, and I might join in, but that’s only one part of it. Another question is how much pasturage is a reasonable minimum for a pony, whether it’s zoned “residential” or not. Assuming this is the family’s home on one acre, that leaves less than one acre for the pony to wander around on. Slightly better than creatures living in a feedlot, but how much better?

    “But Ms. Spiteri … doesn’t want to re-zone her family’s property to an agricultural lot because they don’t need a full-sized farm.” Are there downsides to this option, the cost of rezoning, or they just don’t want to call the property a farm?

    “Also, since Emily is a miniature pony, she can’t graze in rich green grass areas like normal ponies because she is prone to bacteria growing in her stomach and on her feet.” They could strip the whole property of grass and I’d still wonder if that is a reasonable amount of space for the pony to walk around.

    An ideal solution would be for the family to board the pony at some nearby farm, maybe right next door if it can coexist with the cows. Maybe readers of this story can be persuaded to pay for boarding the animal legally somewhere nearby. This would not be the only family that has to board a large animal off its property.

    Re: $800+$345 fees to appeal, yeah, that’s ridiculous.

  34. I’m going to have to side with the neighbor on this one. Imagine how you’d feel if something happened to someone living a mile away that altered your quality of life. It’s a sad problem, but it’s also their problem.

    The cow vs. horse argument doesn’t hold up, either (even non-infected horse**** smells worse than cow****, and there’s many other possible variables not mentioned).

    In addition, zones can be arbitrary or archaic, but the vast majority are in place for very good reasons.

  35. #39, Walterbillington, perhaps there are no large animals living in cramped conditions in the orbit of your life. There are solutions that will allow the boy to have access to the pony. It’s possible to be fair to the boy and the family and treat the animal humanely. (I’m talking about how much space a pony needs to walk around, not the smell or zoning or bureaucratic nonsense.)

  36. Caledon Town Council Email List
    marolyn.morrison@caledon.ca; richard.paterak@caledon.ca;
    allan.thompson@caledon.ca; gord.mcclure@caledon.ca;
    richard.whitehead@caledon.ca; nick.deboer@caledon.ca;

    Marolyn Morrison

    Ward 1
    Regional Councillor
    – Richard Paterak

    Ward 1
    Town Councillor
    – Doug Beffort

    Ward 2
    Regional Councillor
    – Allan Thompson

    Ward 2
    Town Councillor
    – Gord McClure

    Ward 3 /4
    Regional Councillor
    – Richard Whitehead

    Ward 3/4
    Town Councillor
    – Nick DeBoer

    Ward 5
    Regional Councillor
    – Annette Groves

    Ward 5
    Town Councillor
    – Jason Payne

  37. @44: not ” stupid neighbour upset over smoke from fires seizes on imaginary horse odor to get local government’s attention enough to notice zoning violation and thereby get even for real or imagined slight(s)”?

  38. Well it’s already been pointed out a few times, but the real reason for the pony’s possible eviction is that it contravenes the zoning bylaw; the complainy neighbour (apparently with a pre-existing beef with the family) just brought it to the town’s attention; it really (legally) has nothing to do with the smell. The family is applying for an exemption, and it seems perfectly reasonable to me that they should get it; I hope they do. Still, the system appears to be working as it should. No grave injustice here, just a routine tiff between neighbours. The family really should have applied for their exemption before they got the pony, it probably would’ve caused a lot less ruckus.

  39. All the comments about “they should have known better”: given where they live, it’s quite possible the Spiteris were unaware that they weren’t zoned to keep a pony.

    @ #18, winstate, @ #44: The amount of space a pony needs for humane housing:

    From the photo above, the pony Emily looks to be under 40″ tall at the shoulder (10 hands). A pony Emily’s size can be humanely housed in spaces as small as 480 square feet, for stabling and movement. Emily probably shouldn’t have free access to grazing, as the small equines are prone to founder (the foot problem) and colic (the belly problem) if over-fed. Dry-lot housing (as it is technically called) with feed supplied by the owner two or more times a day is quite humane. Hay isn’t necessary if a good quality, complete pelleted feed is used.

    As far as the odor is concerned, maybe the Spiteris need help with stable management. There are two sources of odor: manure and urine. The weekly volume of manure Emily would produce is likely less than 50 gallons (a standard garbage can). If the Spiteris picked up her manure twice a day (about a 10 minute task) and binned it, there goes that source of odor. If Emily was housed on deep bedded woodchips, the urine smell diminishes a lot.

    The ideas to have Emily classified as a therapy animal are quite sound. Miniature horses are used as Guide horses for the visually impaired. Perhaps North American Riding for the Handicapped can give the Spiteris some assistance.

  40. @45 Doug Nelson: Where in the hell are you smelling one horse (miniature horse, at that) that is worse than 7 cows? I’ve been to horse farms and cow farms many times, and the cows smell so much worse it’s not even funny. Maybe there’s a difference in breeds I’m not aware of, but I say Miniature Horse > 7 Cows.

    Also, how would I feel? Well if I had a disabled young boy who couldn’t even walk or crawl as my neighbor, I’d say I’d feel like they could do pretty much whatever they damn well please to try to make his life a little bit better. I’d be grateful that I don’t have to deal with that situation, and I’d be sympathetic to their situation. ESPECIALLY if I lived in farm country. Since I don’t like the smell of animals, I live in a town, but I’d say living next to a farm forbids me from ever complaining about smells. That plus, you know, common human decency.

  41. @51 – “It’s quite possible the Spiteris were unaware that they weren’t zoned to keep a pony.” That’s true, and if it’s true then they are pretty negligent for not checking before, I dunno, buying a pony. Ignorance or not, it’s their decision, their fault, and their consequences.

  42. Zoning variances are granted all the time. The municipality will have a stated percentage of variances that can be granted. Zoning is a good thing. Zero tolerance is a bad thing.

  43. both parties should have to present audited statements of net worth and lists of chattels with fair market values together with projected earnings potentials of all family members. Whoever has the highest value should then have the lesser party indentured to them as servants for a term specified by the local government.

  44. #54. Yes, where’s your soul?

    Why does everyone feel like sticking to the rules here? I’m shocked. Rules get bent all the time. Is someone watching you all? Have you called Caledon Council and received the $10 payment they’re offering to not make a fuss.

    In the great utilitarian view of the universe, a disabled boy’s joy is important. Life can be tough for anyone, but imagine being sentient, alive, and stuck in a shit body. That. would. suck.

    So let’s give him a break. And the Spiteris following the law to the letter? They’re rural folk, taking care of children, one of whom is disabled. Don’t be horrid! They’re not lawyers.

    #51 Thanks for the clarification. #46 – “there are solutions” – propose them. This empty statement is useless to all, and really doesn’t reflect well on you. Propose realistic, workable solutions to the family. Help them.

  45. It’s not much to expect a Board to cut a disabled aplicant a break from the letter of the law once in a while – developers certainly get breaks on accessibility issues when those rules clash just slightly with site conditions (slightly steeper ramps, providing one fewer handicapped spot in a small lot, etc..).

    It’s insanity to think a tiny horse is a problem. I hope their nasty neighbor’s well dries up.

  46. we don’t do that here. Send support to the family, complaints to the local zoning board,comments to the local press, but no harassment of the neighbor.

  47. Pork Musket – If I have a seeing eye dog, I can keep it and take it places you can’t have a pet.

    That pony seems pretty important to the little girl’s therapy. Register it as legal service animal, and it gets the same rights as the human it is assisting.

  48. how awful that beast must smell to annoy those unfortunate neighbors so.

    the proper thing to do here, of course, is destroy the pony while the crippled boy watches, thereby teaching him lessons of life and death.

    and eliminating the odor problem.

  49. also, when I was a kid I wanted a pony but never got one. so maybe i’m the disabled one.

    (although the point is moot, since he lost his pony)

  50. An acre (with a house on) it is LOADS of space for a miniature pony. Especially if someone takes it out for a walk along the side of the road every day.

  51. #70, I agree. The thing is basically the size of a large dog, and I doubt anyone has ever pitched a fit over a neighbor who wasn’t providing 2+ acres for their St. Bernard.

  52. I’ve got a pony and a mini horse, both are in a fenced in field about 5 acres in size, and all they do is stand in the same spot all day. If this lady has an acre, these animals are not that large, it has plenty of room to move around. As long as they are getting plenty of food (grain,hay) it shouldn’t really be an issue. These neighbors are ridiculous, considering the circumstances. Don’t move to the country if you don’t want the occasional fecal matter smell drifting over to your back porch.

    And really, you get used to it pretty quick.

  53. Therapeutic riding is a remarkable form of therapy, and one that has been helping people with physical, cognitive and emotional disabilities for centuries.

    Certified therapeutic riding centres focus on the health and safety of every person and animal associated with their organization, and the humane care and treatment of people and therapy horses is paramount.

    This is an unfortunate human interest story and it’s an incredibly sadness that this little boy will be losing his pony. It’s important to remember, however,that there are two sides to every story. Horses are pack animals, and they require specific and appropriate care. Any horse, regardless of size or history, deserves to be treated fairly and humanely – something which the by-law officer notes when observing that the property is not a big enough pasture to sustain the pony.

    I recognize this is not the popular stand. This is a family that struggles for a variety of reasons with accessibility to appropriate therapies that will improve their child’s quality of life. Perhaps a more sensible solution, however, to challenging a humane by-law and blaming the neighbours, might be to focus those energies on finding a nearby farm or stable to donate stabling or pasture for the pony so she can be in an appropriate and healthy environment, and continue to provide the much needed emotional and physical benefits for a special boy.

  54. I thought about the zoning issue too – but a closer read shows that the owners were well aware of it — their claim is that the pony is not livestock but a pet , and doesn’t require acerage from grazing — and as such falls within their current zoning rights.

    It has some merit — it’s smaller than larger dogs like St Bernards.

    If they had a good lawyer, they’d get around the zoning issue and have a harassment case against the neighbors (who have been initiating a long string of any complaints they can against that family).

  55. When neighbors complain of animals, it’s almost never actually about the animals. This is likely just a “fuck you” from the neighbors to the pony’s owners.

  56. #58, Sorry, when I wrote “there are solutions” in #46, I was expanding on #44 where I had suggested solutions. Rezoning, boarding the horse nearby, requesting donations to pay for boarding the horse nearby. In other posts, people suggested requesting an exemption or “variance” on the zoning, getting Emily classified as a service animal (assuming Canada’s laws are similar or better than the US on that).

  57. Wow, I’m glad I’m not those people about now. Of course, I wouldn’t have complained about the pony. I’m from Texas and I kind of like the smell…

  58. Thats so sad ive worked with horses for years now and i cant even smell there poo anymore. but why would the neighbours even conider complaining when it will give the boy a better quality of life in the future even if its just moving 1 of his legs. and 1 acre of land is big enough for 2 ponys it even says that in equestrian books etc.

    if it gives him happiness why take the pony away.

  59. This is so sad today the world we live in, so its better to take the pony away and who knows what will happen to her, when she is making such a difference in this little boys life, it saddens me to the world we have become, but its okay for him to have cows? and does he have a stream running through his propert, but that is okay, but not okay for a pony to help a disabled child, there is a law that states if the pony is a service pony it is okay please check into this, obviously this person doesnt like himself, let alone others, to pick on someone so precious, or he probably has issues with his own childhood and cant stand to see someone be happy! Oh this aggravates me to no end!!!! Its okay for cows but not horses anywhere!!!!! come on horse people lets stand up !!!! cause if we dont sooner or later there wont be any horses !!!! Even small rural properties are becoming obsolete, but its okay in the states to have one in your backyard !!!!!!Isn’t the world round????

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