Gelding blinded by ragwort poisoning put down: owner jailed

The owner of a horse found “staggering around” his field blinded by ragwort poisoning has been jailed for 12 weeks after ignoring council warnings about the plant.

Ronald Wheeler, 43, of Thomas Lane, Liverpool appeared in Liverpool Magistrates Court for sentencing on 2 August after pleading guilty to three charges under the Animal Welfare Act at an earlier hearing on 13 June.

The RSPCA attended a field at Lower Lane, Fazarkerley, Liverpool on 6 August 2018 after receiving calls from concerned members of public about a dark bay cob called Oscar.

A spokesman for the charity said when the inspector, Joanne MacDonald, arrived at the field with a vet the horse was staggering around and collapsing. He was described by the vet as having a body score of two and was found to have a “significant” worm burden.

“They realised he was blind, was struggling to stand and was unable to swallow,” said the spokesman.

“The vet decided Oscar needed to be put to sleep to end his suffering and a subsequent post mortem confirmed he had been poisoned by ragwort after being exposed to it for many weeks or even months.”

The court heard the council had written to Wheeler on 15 June 2018 about removing the ragwort, which had grown to three feet tall in some places.

Inspector MacDonald said: “It was an awful case to deal with as poor Oscar was clearly suffering. He was collapsing and the ragwort had caused his blindness, which meant he was walking into things and was clearly in a distressed state.

“To make matters worse Wheeler had been told previously to remove the ragwort by the council but had failed to do this. Responsible horse owners should know ragwort is damaging to the horse’s liver when eaten. The toxic effect builds up over time, causing irreparable damage.”

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In mitigation Wheeler cited personal problems meant he failed to keep on top of the ragwort.

Wheeler was banned from keeping equines for 10 years. He was ordered to pay £786 costs and a £115 victim surcharge.

He has appealed the sentence and is due to appear at Liverpool Magistrates Court on Thursday (15 August).

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