Case of horse neglect with vet describing one "thinnest seen"

Case of horse neglect with vet describing one "thinnest seen"

Three people have been disqualified from keeping equines for seven years after each admitting to one animal welfare offence relating to horse neglect.

The court heard that the case involved two equines who were found to be in an emaciated bodily condition likely due to high worm burdens and lack of a suitable diet. Kerry Pugh of Ledbury, Herefordshire, Jessica Pugh of Broom Hall, Worcester, and Oliver Fairy, Malvern, appeared at Hereford Magistrate's Court on Tuesday 30 January. 

Oliver Fairy pleaded guilty to one Animal Welfare Act offence which concerned a grey mare named Totti in that he failed to meet her needs. Kerry Pugh and Jessica Pugh pleaded guilty to one offence relating to chestnut mare Autumn admitting they failed to meet her needs.

All three have been disqualified from keeping equines for seven years. Fairy was handed a £450 fine, victim surcharge of £180, and ordered to pay £200 costs. Kerry Pugh and Jessica Pugh were handed a £196 fine, a victim surcharge to pay of £78 and they were ordered to pay £200 costs. 

In mitigation, Fairy accepted full responsibility for his failure to ensure Totti was provided with the correct vet assistance and nourishment. It was heard that his involvement with Totti was relatively limited and another person was attending to the horses but ultimately he had the overriding responsibility for her care.

In mitigation for Jessica and Kerry Pugh it was heard that they had entrusted someone else to look after her and feed her daily, but admitted they should have taken responsibility themselves and checked. They called the vet when the first signs of choking showed.

In a written statement, provided to the court, RSPCA inspector Suzane Smith, said it was on 22 March last year when she attended a stables in Ledbury, after the RSPCA received a call concerning underweight horses.

Inspector Smith, who was shown, Autumn said: "She was wearing a rug, but despite this I could see she was extremely angular with the rug hanging on her like she was a coat hanger, I was informed the horse was called Autumn. There was no food or water in the stable, there was no bedding, there was some faeces."

The owner of the stables gave her the owner details as Jess Pugh and Oliver Fairy. Fairy told inspector Smith that the horse was Jess Pugh's horse and he had spoken to a vet the night before as the horse had had 'choke', but he didn't know when the horse had seen a vet prior to that. He agreed for inspector Smith to remove the rug and assess her.

Inspector Smith said: "I went into the stable and removed the rug, as I suspected, the horse was extremely underweight with all bones exposed, a clear thigh gap between her buttock cheeks, the rib cage was fully visible with a shelf along the top where it met with the spinal processors."

Whilst waiting for the vet, as Autumn had no food or water I asked if some could be provided and a slice of hay in a small haynet was hung in the stable and the small empty bucket which was in the stable was filled.  

Smith continued: "Autumn drank immediately and had eaten all the hay by the time the vet arrived." 

She was also informed that there had been another horse, a grey mare, which had left the yard on 17 March 2023 and had been returned to the owner in North Wales. She was told that Oliver Fairy had had this horse on a lease or loan arrangement and the horse was known as Totti. 

A vet who attended assessed Autumn and said that he had spoken with the owner the previous evening as the horse had had 'choke', but a visit was not agreed by the owner. Inspector Smith added: "He then clearly said that the horse was about the thinest horse he'd seen and confirmed suffering."

In the vet's statement provided to the court, he said the mare's body condition was 0.5 out of five and that there was strong evidence "to support parasitism for the poor body condition of the horse."

They added: "This should be easily rectifiable with appropriate anthelmintic treatment and careful refeeding. This is an easily preventable situation if normal husbandry had been upheld, and it is suggestive that an appropriate diet and routine healthcare had not been performed."

Jessica Pugh and her mother Kerry Pugh also attended the stables on 22 March, and a transfer of ownership form for Autumn was signed by Kerry Pugh, who said she was the owner and the passport was in her name. Transport arrived and Autumn was safely loaded and transported to RSPCA boarding.

The court heard that inspector Smith was also able to locate the contact details of the other horse that had been removed on 17 March. The owner was called and it was requested that a vet attended to assess Totti, who later confirmed that the horse had been suffering. The vet found an "above normal faecal worm egg count".

The vet added that blood and faecal test results were consistent with a "high intestinal parasite burden" which could contribute to weight loss. However, the test results could also be present with other diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease. 

The weight loss was described as "severe" and would have occurred over a long period of time. The current keeper was informed and treatment for parasites was recommended.

Autumn was foot sore upon arrival in RSPCA care, she received remedial farriery alongside her re-feeding programme. She recovered her weight after receiving an appropriate worming and refeeding programme, however it became clear that despite trying to resolve her lameness issues which was found to stem from her shoulder, her welfare was affected and sadly on veterinary grounds the decision had to be made to put her to sleep.