The owner of a Devon equestrian business has been ordered to pay £2,000 in fines and costs for operating a riding school without a licence.
Jane Hunt, the owner of Welcombe Equine, was investigated by Torridge Council after local residents and the British Horse Society (BHS) raised concerns that she was running an unregulated business.
The council said it approached Mrs Hunt to “inform her of her legal obligations” and told her that the riding school should not be operated without a licence in place.
Mrs Hunt — who was also subject to a successful prosecution by the RSPCA in August 2018 — duly submitted an application but vets who inspected Welcombe Equine failed to approve the business, saying it “fell seriously short of an acceptable standard on many points”.
Despite being cautioned that she should not operate the riding school until it was compliant, and a fresh application had been granted, the council said that Mrs Hunt had continued to advertise her services on Facebook.
In a hearing on 14 January, the court was told Torridge officers had made a booking at Mrs Hunt’s riding school and had also been contacted by other members of the public who were concerned they couldn’t find a record of a license for the business.
Mrs Hunt claimed that she didn’t require a licence as any riding instruction was only provided to friends and family and any money paid was simply a contribution towards expenses such as fuel.
Further witness statements proved that this was not the case and that Mrs Hunt had no licence to operate, which the council said would “probably have invalidated her insurance”, if she had any in place.
Mrs Hunt was found guilty of operating a riding school without a licence and fined £500 with £50 victim surcharge and £1,388 in costs. She was also banned from holding a licence for two years.
Councillor Ken James, lead member for the environment said: “The animal licensing regime exists to ensure the welfare of animals as well as the health and safety of customers using facilities.
“Through her actions Mrs Hunt has shown a blatant disregard for her responsibilities under the law, which has been confirmed in court.
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“To their credit, the public also raised concerns about the way this business was being operated. It is good advice for people to check on our council website to see if an establishment holds a valid and current licence so that the welfare and safety of the animals and the public are not being compromised.”
Last year, a thoroughbred mare called Polly was removed from Mrs Hunt’s care by the RSPCA after she was found in a “poor body condition” and with a burst abscess above her hoof for which she had “failed to seek appropriate veterinary care”.
Mrs Hunt was found guilty of two counts of causing unnecessary suffering to a horse on 3 August, 2018, and was fined £750, ordered to pay an £85 victim surcharge and was also handed 100 hours of unpaid community work.
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