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Equine welfare charity HAPPA has closed one of its two rescue centres temporarily, following abusive behaviour towards staff by local supporters.

The charity said it had come under increasing “pressure” from people living close to Gregory Farm near Chepstow due to unfounded rumours that animals in its care were being euthanased.

Carla Holgate from HAPPA told H&H they had received “a lot of negative feedback” since starting a consultation on the future of Gregory Farm at the end of last year.

“But of more concern was a verbal incident with a staff member, which was enough for the board to consider the situation,” she added.

“From the tone of the messages we were receiving, we were concerned that ill-advised people might have taken matters into their own hands and attempted to move the animals.”

Operations at Gregory Farm were shut down on 21 December and its horses and ponies were moved to HAPPA’s headquarters near Burnley, Lancs.

HAPPA supporter Jill Detheridge, who has adopted three horses at the Chepstow site, told local media she was concerned about the animals’ welfare.

“It’s a really dreadful thing to do [closing the centre] to anybody, especially to lots of young people who can’t actually find out what’s going on,” she said.

HAPPA says it has written to all current adopters. The 12 staff at Gregory Farm are on full paid leave.

In a statement, HAPPA chairman Ken Cranage said a final decision on the future of Gregory Farm would not be made until an internal consultation process with staff was completed.

The charity insisted that financial pressures “were not the primary reason” for considering the closure of Gregory Farm.

This news story was first published in the current issue of H&H (17 January 2013)