The public has been quick to criticise the RSPCA for not acting fast enough to prevent the deaths that occured at Spindels Farm near Amersham, Buckinghamshire.

The RSPCA has responded by saying it did not have the power to remove the animals any earlier.

“The owner was known to the RSPCA, and while we had concerns about his horses, conditions had been at a legally acceptable level during our last visits,” said an RSPCA spokesman. “So, the only option the RSPCA inspectors had then was to offer animal welfare advice to improve the situation.

“Conditions had declined drastically when the RSPCA returned to the farm last week, and inspectors acted immediately, with Thames Valley Police to remove the remaining 111 animals from the property.”

A spokesman from Trading Standards told H&H that their inspectors had also visited Spindles Farm on “a number of occasions” since last July.

“But we found nothing on which we could act,” she said. “If people did complain — as they are saying they did in the press — they must have done so to the wrong people.”

The spokesman also said that press reports of “piles of rotting carcasses” at the Spindles Farm were false.

Stay up to date with the latest developments on HorseandHound.co.uk and don’t miss Horse & Hound’s special news feature on the case, on sale 17 January, ’08