Horse put down due to ragwort poisoning: owner pleads guilty in court

A gelding with a body score of two, who had to be put down on welfare grounds, was found to be suffering with ragwort poisoning.

Ronald Wheeler, 43, of Thomas Lane, Liverpool, pleaded guilty to three charges under the Animal Welfare Act when he appeared at Liverpool Magistrates Court on 13 June.

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

A vet report estimated that Oscar had been exposed to ragwort for “weeks to months” and described the gelding as having a body score of two out of nine. He was also found to have a significant worm burden. A decision was made by vets to put Oscar down on welfare grounds. A post-mortem examination found results consistent with ragwort toxicity.

Wheeler pleaded guilty to causing unnecessary suffering to the gelding by failing to investigate and address the cause of Oscar’s poor bodily condition and weight loss, and failed to provide parasite control. The third charge related to accommodating Oscar in an environment where he had ready access to ragwort resulting in ragwort poisoning.

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RSPCA inspector McDonald said: “This was a really sad case in which a beautiful horse suffered needlessly. Ragwort is potentially really dangerous for horses if they eat it, but by simply taking the time to maintain paddocks regularly, situations like this can be easily avoided.”

Wheeler will appear in court at a later date for sentencing.

Don’t miss our bumper 135th birthday issue, out on Thursday 20 June, including top stars sharing their fondest memories together, we talk to those involved in our most iconic moments and much more. Read our full report from Bolesworth International, and check out our feature on riders’ quirky superstitions. Plus read our news story on ragwort as experts fight back over ragwort “hysteria” claims.