Donkeys and ponies ordered to be returned to Amersham horse dealer James Gray can stay with animal welfare organisations until the result of an appeal by the RSPCA to the High Court, a judge has ruled.

District Judge Sandeep Kainth, sitting at Oxford Magistrates Court today (Monday 14 April) suspended his original order for 11 donkeys and 18 ponies to be returned to Gray in light of an appeal by the RSPCA.

“We are, of course, delighted that the animals will remain in the care of the animal welfare charities for the immediate future and hope we will be able to secure their long-term well-being,” said the RSPCA’s chief officer Tim Wass.

“But we have very real concerns for the welfare of the donkeys, ponies and horses involved, which is why we are asking the deputy district judge to explain his original decision.”

At a hearing on Friday 4 April, Judge Kainth ordered rescue charities to return 11 donkeys and 18 Shetland ponies to Gray, ruling that they were not at risk (news, 10 April).

But when on Friday (11 April) the RSPCA had still not returned the animals, Gray launched an action in the High Court.

James Gray, Julie Gray, Cordelia Gray and Jodie Gray and a youth who cannot be named, are charged with failing to meet the needs of 125 equines removed from Spindle Farm, Amersham between 4-12 January this year.

They deny all the charges and are next due in court on 28 April for a pre-trial review.

Gray also faces a trial on 9 May at Aylesbury Magistrates Court after pleading not guilty to assaulting a police officer and resisting a police officer.

He has pleaded guilty to criminal damage to the tyre of an RSPCA van.