A judge has criticised the RSPCA for its handling of the prosecution of a Norwich couple accused of causing unnecessary suffering to their 24-year-old horse.

Gina and Martin Griffin appeared in court on 22 January, but district judge Philip Browning found them innocent, and said the “case could have been dealt with in a better and certainly more sympathetic way”.

He ordered the RSPCA to pay the Griffins’ costs.

The RSPCA claimed the horse, Florry, was too thin. But when the Griffins tried to explain that the horse had laminitis and was on restricted grazing, as recommended by their vet, the court was told the RSPCA inspector and vet refused to discuss the case with them.

The court heard that Mrs Griffin bought Florry as a three-year-old, but because of injury, the horse was never ridden, living as a companion to her other horses.

The RSPCA seized Florry on 2 October 2006, despite her vet Charlotte Mayers’ insistence that the horse was well cared for.

In a statement to the court, Mrs Griffin claimed the RSPCA inspector had an “aggressive attitude”.

“I felt extremely distressed and anxious,” said Mrs Griffin, who has kept horses for 30 years and has her BHSAI.

Florry was also diagnosed with Cushing’s disease while in the RSPCA’s care. Cushing’s can cause muscle wastage and the Griffins feel this was responsible in part for Florry’s lack of condition. Florry is due to be returned to the Griffins.

A spokesman for the RSPCA said: “An independent vet examined the horse and said it was suffering, that is why the RSPCA decided to bring this prosecution.”

Anne Kasica, a spokesman for the Self Help Group (SHG), an organisation set up in 1990 to help people who feel they are being unfairly targeted by the RSPCA, said the Griffins’ case was typical of many.

“The RSPCA’s aims are to promote kindness and stop cruelty to animals,” said Mrs Kasica. “How can it be kind to take a horse away from the loving home she had lived in for two decades?”

Self Help Group. Tel: 08700 726689 www.the-shg.org

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (7 February, ’08)