Horses whose heads touched their stable roofs because they were standing on four feet of muck had to be dug out by rescuers in a “horrendous” welfare case.
Gordon Hamilton Metcalf, 59, and Denise Ann Clark, 48, of Rutland Street, Hetton-le-Hole, were sentenced at Newton Aycliffe Magistrates’ Court on 7 October, following a trial on 7 September at Peterlee Magistrates’ Court. The pair were convicted of five offences under the Animal Welfare Act, committed between 15 August and 15 October 2020.
RSPCA inspectors Terri-Ann Fannon and Gemma Lynch, and World Horse Welfare field officer Seema Ritson, discovered 40 neglected horses when they attended a property on Urwin Street, Hetton-le-Hole, Tyne and Wear, on 15 October 2020. Some horses were found in a paddock with mud up to their knees, and there were foals who could “barely move” because of mud up to their chests.
An RSPCA spokesman said many of the horses were confined in areas “significantly contaminated” by faecal matter and they did not have water, hay or clean bedding.
“They did not have a hard standing area to be able to stand out of the mud and several were found with overgrown hooves due to lack of farrier treatment,” he said.
Ms Fannon found four Shetland ponies and two cob-type horses in the “worst conditions she had ever seen”.
“The horses stood on old hay, muck and faeces up to my shoulders, approximately four feet high. There was no access in or out of the stable,” she said.
“The cobs were unable to lift their heads up as the muck was so high, their heads were touching the roof of the stable. They had no food or water. Several of my colleagues spent several hours digging out the horses. A piebald mare had thick matted fur clumped around her hooves. She was of thin body condition and had severely overgrown hooves, which had curled and twisted.”
The RSPCA spokesman added that a piebald horse with severely overgrown hooves was found in a stable that had been nailed shut and had to be prised open with a crowbar. Six Shetland ponies were found standing on two feet of muck and mud, two Shetlands with overgrown hooves were found in a plastic greenhouse that officers had to climb over rubble to reach, and another, who was in thin body condition, was found inside a horsebox in a “suffering state” owing to lameness, and arthritis in her shoulders.
“Despite advising the couple a year earlier that they could not keep horses at the site during winter due to the extreme muddy conditions, no improvements had been made since the previous year apart from a makeshift area of uneven cobble bricks that had been put down which the horses could not stand on,” he said.
The horses and ponies were examined by a vet before being taken into the RSPCA’s care. Of the 40, 12 were found to be suffering with overgrown hooves and 10 were suffering as a result of Metcalf and Clark’s failing to provide adequate nutrition.
Ms Fannon said the case was the worst she had been involved with during her career with the RSPCA.
“I offered to help Mr Metcalf on numerous occasions and none have been taken up,” she said.
“He knowingly kept horses hidden in these conditions for a long period of time. I am pleased we have since been able to find many of the horses new homes.”
In mitigation the court heard the horses had been “dumped” on the defendants and they claimed they had no responsibility during the dates of the offences.
Metcalf was given a lifetime disqualification from keeping all animals, which he cannot contest for 10 years. He was sentenced to 18 weeks’ imprisonment, suspended for 12 months, and must pay £750 costs. Clark was banned from keeping all animals for 10 years and cannot contest this for 10 years. She was fined £180 and must pay £750 costs.
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.