Lifetime ban for woman who failed to care for 131 horses after judge dismisses appeal

  • A woman who failed to care for more than 130 horses is facing a suspended sentence and a lifetime ban on keeping animals after her appeal was dismissed by a judge.

    Christine Kelly, 61, of Portsmouth Road, Ripley, was found guilty of 15 offences under the Animal Welfare Act following a trial last summer. The case related to what has been described as “one of the biggest animal welfare operations ever in the UK”.

    She was found guilty of failing to meet the needs of 131 equines, and was also convicted of causing unnecessary suffering to horses, dogs and goats.

    She had claimed through the investigation that she was not responsible for all the animals found on site. After her sentencing, she launched an appeal.

    The appeal hearing took eight days at Guildford Crown Court and on Friday (23 June), it was was dismissed by a judge.

    This means she was given a six-month prison sentence, suspended for two years, for each charge to run concurrently. She is also disqualified for keeping all animals for life, which cannot be appealed for 10 years, and ordered to pay a £122 victim surcharge. Kelly has also been served with a deprivation order, meaning the remaining animals in charity care can now be rehomed.

    Christine Kelly appeal: what was the case about?

    Hundreds of animals were found living in poor conditions when Surrey Police executed a warrant at a farm in Ripley, Surrey, on 9 January 2019, as part of an RSPCA-led investigation.

    The multi-agency operation involved many charities and vets. They found herds of ponies, many riddled with worms, living in fields with hazardous metal and broken fencing in thick mud. Two barns were full of animals, many standing on feet of waste and faeces.

    Dozens of dogs, some heavily pregnant and others with puppies, were found chained and tethered on the yard, or shut inside tiny cramped cages or makeshift kennels.

    A total of 204 animals were discovered at the site. Three were put down at the scene and 201 were taken into charity care, including 129 horses and donkeys, 59 dogs, five goats, four chickens, three alpacas and a duck.

    Despite urgent veterinary treatment, 14 horses died or were put to sleep on veterinary advice.

    Two dogs and one goat had to be put down, and one chicken and one duck also died. Twenty foals were subsequently born in charity care, although two were stillborn, as well as six goat kids, one alpaca and seven surviving puppies.

    “More than 100 people from different agencies spent more than 12 hours assessing the animals, rounding them up and moving them to vets and rescue centres. It’s one of the biggest animal welfare operations ever in the UK,” said RSPCA special operations unit case officer Kirsty Withnall, who coordinated the rescue mission and led the investigation.

    “We had no idea what the conditions would be like until we stepped through the gates but we had a plan in place that would allow us to remove a large number of animals on the day, although we hoped that wouldn’t be necessary. But we were left shocked at the conditions these poor animals had been kept in.”

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