A knackerman who fraudulently charged owners for horse cremations that never took place has been fined almost £29,000 at Gloucester Magistrates Court.
Phillip Cooper, 67, of John Cooper Livestock Services of Broadway, Glos, was fined on 8 February after pleading guilty to five counts of fraud.
Trading Standards were first alerted when Sharon Widdows, of Eastington, paid £920 to have her 16.3hh thoroughbred Otto individually cremated after he was put down by Bushy Equine Clinic in Breadstone in January 2009.
But after working in a vet clinic herself for 12 years, Ms Widdows was suspicious when the casket returned was smaller than expected.
Investigators found that Mr Cooper took money from Ms Widdows and four other owners for the individual cremations of horses, but actually delivered the remains to a rendering plant in Exeter.
“It is incredibly upsetting,” said Ms Widdows. “I feel immensely let down. At £920 you hope your horse is going to a legitimate crematorium.”
Mr Cooper also pleaded guilty to four charges of failing to keep appropriate records.
Trading Standards’ Eddie Coventry said: “This was a particularly nasty fraud, one targeted at individuals during a distressing and vulnerable time.”
Ms Widdows added: “Other readers should make their own enquiries. It must be happening up and down the country.”
The Association of Private Pet Cemeteries and Crematoria’s (APPCC) Kevin Spurgeon also urges owners to to take care.
“Equine cremation is open to fraud. Vets should ensure they have full written working practices and carry out regular site inspections,” he said.
A spokesman for Bushy Equine told H&H he was “devastated”.
“We’re very disappointed,” he said. He added the clinic “never questioned” Mr Cooper’s legitimacy.
“He was licensed so I assumed that was enough.”
This news story was first published in the current issue of Horse & Hound (17 February, 2011)