A stallion found with a prolapsed penis was in such a “severe state of suffering”, he had to be put down on the spot.
Edmund and Rosena Edge, of Exbourne, Okehampton, were responsible for the stallion, and a number of other horses in their care found emaciated and suffering. The couple were given 26-week suspended prison sentences and banned from keeping animals for 10 years, at Exeter Crown Court on 6 July, having admitted animal welfare offences at a previous hearing.
“On arrival, animal rescuers found a large number of horses in poor conditions, including a stallion who was extremely emaciated and covered in dry caked mud and faeces, and had a swollen and infected prolapsed penis,” an RSPCA spokesman said.
Sarah Morris, one of the inspectors on the scene for the charity, added: “It was sadly clear to see that the needs of the horses were not being met. They all appeared to be either emaciated or severely underweight.
“On looking over the stable doors of the horses in the first yard area, I could clearly and immediately see that they too were emaciated and were standing in approximately 10-12 inches of faeces with no clean dry bedding available and no supplementary food such as hay. It was immediately apparent that there were serious welfare issues and that the animals were in a suffering state.”
Ms Morris said the environment was “wholly unsuitable” for its inhabitants; the stabled horses were “standing in wet faeces inches deep”, among hazards and in stables in a “state of disrepair” with broken wood panels. Some of the horses in fields did have access to shelters but “these too were falling down and hazards were present”.
“There were no obvious feedstuffs available to the horses except for a round bale of hay in a field beyond the stables and no bedding of any type except for some large rectangular bales of straw, outside the yard area, which looked very old and mouldy,” she said. “The horses confined in the stable blocks did not have any access to hay.”
A vet who assessed all the horses on site identified five “in need of the most urgent attention”. Four were taken to a nearby veterinary practice.
“Sadly the stallion who was found with a prolapsed penis was found to be in such a severe state of suffering that the vet, with consent from Mr Edge, decided that the best and most humane course of action would be to have the horse euthanised,” the RSPCA spokesman said.
After the operation, the horses were assessed by the equine vet, who “noted the prolonged suffering experienced by a number of the horses”.
“It is my professional opinion that the needs of these animals were hugely lacking and that many of these animals suffered, some to a moderate and others to a large degree,” the vet said.
“The mechanism of suffering would have been starvation, feeling hungry with associated gastric ulcers, breaking down of bodily tissues to stay alive, pain of lameness, mental anguish, skin irritation and pain of swollen limbs, mouth pain, feet pain, awkwardness in walking, feeling cold due to emaciation.
“In 36 years of equine veterinary practice, this is by far the worst case of neglect that I have seen. This was particularly startling due the level of horsemanship of Mr Edge who should have clearly known better.”
Ms Morris added: “The pitiful condition of the animals and the conditions they endured were wholly preventable and unacceptable.”
In mitigation, the couple said they had struggled with a decline in their health, including mental health issues for Mrs Edge, and were previously good horse owners of good character.
Mr Edge was ordered to carry out 150 hours’ unpaid work and 45 rehabilitation activity requirement days. Mrs Edge was ordered to carry out 32 rehabilitation activity requirement days. Both must also pay £500 in costs.
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