‘A really sad case’: horses had to be dug free from stables – one had not been out for two years

  • The owner of horses who had to be dug out of their “cramped and dirty” stables – including one who had not been outside for two years – has been banned from keeping equids indefinitely.

    Dianne Pearson, 70, of Sowerby Bridge, West Yorkshire, was sentenced at Kirklees Magistrates’ Court on 16 April, having pleaded guilty to four animal welfare offences involving 10 horses.

    Concerns about the horses were raised with the RSPCA and World Horse Welfare in April 2023, and officers went to the scene in Norland.

    “They discovered 10 horses and ponies kept in cramped, dirty stables and buildings, some with such large amounts of faeces and soiled bedding that had built up, the horses struggled to stand,” an RSPCA spokesman said. “Some of the horses were also suffering from health issues including lameness and dental problems.”

    In her witness statement, RSPCA inspector Demi Hodby said all the horses were being kept in unsuitable conditions.

    “There was no ventilation and very limited lighting inside,” she said. “All the stables were piled high with bedding and faeces and it was clear they had not been mucked out in some time. The bedding inside all the stables was piled so high that most of the horses’ heads were touching the roof. There was no water inside any of the stables.”

    She added: “During our visit, Pearson admitted that Bud had not been out of his stable for two years and it took her over 10 minutes to dig the muck from behind Ellie’s stable door before she could open it and get her out. It also took her some time to dig out another horse called Rio.”

    Rescuers had to dig their way into some of their stables owing to the build-up of soiled bedding and faeces.

    “Some horses had difficulty walking and one horse drank a considerable amount of water when given a bucket,” the spokesman said.

    Four horses were removed that day and six the next; all were examined by an equine vet, whose witness statement said: “In my opinion the environmental conditions these horses were found in were completely and wholly unsuitable.

    “Many of the stables were in complete or mostly in darkness and most had little ventilation.This meant that when some of the horses reached the boarding establishment, they found normal visual things extremely stressful, and one horse had to be medicated for this. This shows the psychological suffering caused to these horses.

    “The owner failed to take steps to meet the needs of these animals, and this has caused suffering in all of the horses due to the poor and unsuitable environments, and five out of 10 of these horses due to ailments observed.”

    Pearson signed six horses over to the care of the RSPCA. After the case a deprivation order was secured so the remaining four came into the charity’s care.

    Tilly was taken on by World Horse Welfare, and Finn was adopted by a riding school where he is thriving, the spokesman said. Fern, Cody, JJ and Inca are at RSPCA Felledge Equine Centre in County Durham, where the team is looking for suitable rehomers.

    After the case, Ms Hodby said: “I am so pleased to see Fern, Cody, Inca and JJ are thriving with our team at RSPCA Felledge, and delighted to hear that Tilly and Finn have already found their forever homes.

    “This was a really sad case to work on and to see ponies kept in such awful conditions was heartbreaking. I’d like to say thank you to our colleagues at World Horse Welfare for their assistance in the rescue and investigating. Working together with other agencies allows us to reach more horses and ponies that need our help and make a big difference to animal welfare.”

    Vets made the decision to put Bling, Bud, Ellie and Rio down for health reasons.

    World Horse Welfare field officer Gilly Howard said: “Having been shut in those small and dirty stables for so long, Tilly was a very nervous pony and especially difficult to catch. But our amazing team at Penny Farm Rescue and Rehoming Centre in Lancashire are working with her to gain her trust and the conclusion of this case means that she can be assessed with a view to finding her a forever home.”

    Pearson’s age and her early guilty pleas were considered in mitigation, and it was agreed that although she “feels no particular remorse for the suffering occasioned to her horses”, she “does feel a sense of sadness and believes she always tried her best”.

    “The defendant has come to accept that she doesn’t want any of the horses returned to her. She has no desire to keep horses in the future.”

    Pearson was disqualified from owning horses, ponies, mules, donkeys and their hybrids indefinitely, with no ability to ask the court to remove that for 15 years, and given a 20-week suspended prison sentence for each of the four offences, to run concurrently, suspended for 12 months. Magistrates also ordered her to pay costs of £7,000, and to attend 20 rehabilitation activity requirement days.

    You might also be interested in:

    Horse & Hound magazine, out every Thursday, is packed with all the latest news and reports, as well as interviews, specials, nostalgia, vet and training advice. Find how you can enjoy the magazine delivered to your door every week, plus options to upgrade your subscription to access our online service that brings you breaking news and reports as well as other benefits.

    You may like...