News item

Successful prosecution of neglected horses

A weak horse with his leg caught in a stirrupA protracted animal welfare investigation by Barnsley Council’s Regulatory Services involving the neglect of dozens of horses, was finally concluded in Barnsley Magistrates Court on 12 September 2013 with a 10 year ban on keeping horses being imposed.  

The Court heard that Animal Health Officer, Derek Green, initially responded to a complaint in relation to a dead horse earlier this year. On investigation the horse appeared to have died of malnutrition. Other horses were found that appeared to have been down for long periods of time one with several untreated sores.

Investigations revealed further horses appeared to have been abandoned with no feed or water. A foal identified as approximately 6 to 18 month old, could barely  raise its head and was too weak to stand on its feet. 

Some of the horses were removed under the powers of the Animal Welfare Act 2006.  Acting on veterinary advice, the foal was removed to an emergency equine unit in an attempt to save its life. It is now fully recovered and was adopted.

The owner of the horses was identified as Miss Deborah Thomson of Royston, Barnsley.  Miss Thomson had a collection of  Caspian and Arabian horses, located at various sites within the Barnsley area. Of the 76 horses found, 46 were physically examined and body scored by a vet.  

A large proportion of these were undernourished, suffering from malnutrition, had sores or were lame, and required veterinary treatment. Further horses were found on land at Miss Thomson's home in cramped overcrowded conditions and were covered in their own faeces and urine. 

Although attempts were made over several months to work with Miss Thomson to improve conditions, she failed to take the necessary action. On veterinary advice further horses were  removed from her care.  Miss Thomson was also found to have mixed healthy horses with horses carrying Strangles (Strangles is a highly contagious infectious disease caused by the bacteria Streptococcus equi).  
Guilty pleas were entered for various offences under the Animal Health Act 2006.

At the hearing Deborah Thomson gave assurances to the Court that all horses had been sold or gifted.  Imposing a nine week prison sentence, suspended for 12 months, and 15 sessions of the Women's Offender Specified Activity, the Magistrate told Miss Thomson: "These horses were ultimately your responsibility.  It was up to you to ensure that they were maintained, fed and watered"

Miss Thomson was also ordered to pay £2,698.52 prosecution costs and a victim surcharge of £80 and banned from keeping horses for at least 10 years.  

On the day of sentencing Miss Thomson’s solicitor said: "She's decided not to keep horses or breed them. That's her hobby gone and her main sense of enjoyment gone. About 50 of the horses were auctioned in July with the most expensive one being sold at £60.”
Councillor Roy Miller, Cabinet Spokesperson, Development, Environmnet and Culture, said:

“This was an appalling case of animal neglect and irresponsible horse ownership.  Hopefully this prosecution will send out a strong message that such cruelty will not be tolerated and action will be brought against owners failing to look after their animals properly.” 

NOTES to Editor

Contact:  Derek Green, Animal Health Officer, Barnsley MBC:  

01226 772529

Action in the matter was taken under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 in relation to the failure to provide a suitable diet for the horses (Section 1), and unnecessary suffering (Section 4) in relation to 2 of the horses that died,  

 Picture shows a horse that had its leg caught in a stirrup but was too weak to struggle free.
DATE 04 October 2013