A magistrate’s decision to return an abused in-foal mare to the owner who almost starved her to death has infuriated welfare workers

In spite of nearly starving her pregnant mare to death, magistrates at Swaffingham Magistrate’s Court in Norfolk, yesterday took the decision to return the horse to its owner.

Rita Jones of Diss, Norfolk, pleaded not guilty to causing unnecessary suffering to Dolly, a black pregnant mare. The court found Ms Jones guilty – she was fined £50 and charged £60 costs.

In February this year Jonathon Jackson, field officer for the ILPH was called to Mission Road, Diss, where he found a tethered, lice infested, severely emaciated mare. In court veterinary surgeon, Andy Williamson described the mare as “grossly emaciated and in a depressed and lethargic condition”.

Dolly was immediately removed from the premises and taken to an ILPH centre, where in May she gave birth to a healthy colt, which staff named Sebastian.

The pair were subsequently stolen in June. However, following an extensive investigation, the horses were found and the ILPH assisted by the police successfully removed the pair and took them to a secure location in Hereford.

After the hearing Jonathon Jackson said: “We are appalled that the court having found Jones guilty should see fit to return the mare and foal to her. Understandably our stable staff who nursed the mare when she came in to us are absolutely gutted.”

He went on: “In court the magistrates said that as Mrs Jones had the financial commitment of six dependent children the fine and costs would reflect this.”

“When cross examined Mr Jones (Rita’s estranged husband) said that he had more than 60 horses to look after.”

“Why then did the magistrates, after finding Rita guilty of cruelty, see fit to impose more financial burden on her, as well as returning the mare and foal?

“It’s not logical from a financial point of view nor is it logical from a welfare point of view. To return an animal to its abuser is another welfare disaster waiting to happen.”

To visit the ILPH’s website click here.