‘I was left cold’: neglected ponies found trying to break out of collapsed shed

  • An RSPCA inspector who found three ponies trying to bang their way out of a collapsed shed “bursting at the seams with faeces” says he will never forget the sound.

    Husband and wife Stan Strelley, 48, and Heather Strelley, 48, both of Carway, Kidwelly, Camarthenshire, pleaded guilty to four offences under the Animal Welfare Act when they appeared at Llanelli Magistrates’ Court on 31 January.

    RSPCA Cymru was initially contacted to rescue ponies trapped at the Kidwelly site but on visiting in June 2018, it was found the property was “badly dilapidated” and the ponies were being kept in a “very unsuitable” environment.

    An RSPCA spokesman said: “In one paddock a number of ponies were left in a poor condition, with overgrown hooves, and cuts and scrapes to their bodies. The animals were surrounded by dangerous hazards including bricks, metal, glass, and old machinery.”

    On investigation an RSPCA inspector heard banging noises and found ponies trying to push their way through fallen metal roofing sheets of a collapsed shed.

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    “Three distressed ponies inside did not have room to stand up without hitting themselves on the roof. Conditions at the shed were so bad the building was bursting at the seams with soiled faeces – and there was no exit point for the ponies but again hazards, including a smouldering bonfire, piping and wood with nails protruding through surrounded the animals,” said the spokesman.

    A further 20 ponies were found living in “many feet of faeces” in a separate building with part of the roof collapsing.

    In total three ponies were found to be underweight and six lame. Bones of a deceased pony were found on a muck heap.

    RSPCA inspector Keith Hogben, who investigated, said: “This complex investigation found shocking neglect of a large number of animals – with ponies kept in hugely inappropriate conditions; and many left to suffer with serious weight loss or lameness.

    “We’re very grateful to the local vets, farrier, World Horse Welfare, police, and the RSPCA’s equine rehoming officers, who all supported our efforts here. I will never forget the sound of hearing a pony trying to bang his way out of a collapsed shed. It was a horrific discovery – with three ponies trapped beneath fallen metal roofing sheets, in conditions so horrendous I was left cold. They were desperate to get out, but had no way out before we arrived.

    “Remarkably, both individuals were showing ponies – and continued to do so during our investigations. There was a clear priorities problem with some animals groomed and treated far better while others were left in appalling conditions. It was one rule for some and another for the others.”

    Romain DeKerckhove, RSPCA chief inspector, said: “It is so hard to understand how anyone lets conditions get so bad for their animals. RSPCA Cymru was left with no choice but to pursue legal action; to ensure justice for these 35 ponies who were so badly let down.”

    “We know most people in south west Wales treat their animals properly – but sadly, this wasn’t the case in this major and serious case in Kidwelly. Inspector Hogben deserves immense credit for dealing with this case so professionally, and rescuing horses left in such unimaginably poor, dangerous and illegal conditions.

    “Thanks to inspector Hogben’s intervention a lot of mistreated horses will now get a second chance of happiness. He, like all our officers in southwest Wales and beyond, will not rest while animals are being subjected to such unfair treatment.”

    The judge said the overall conditions at the site were “disgraceful and disgusting”. It was heard the owners failed to meet the needs of all 35 ponies, as they failed to provide a hygienic, suitable environment which was free from dangerous hazards.

    In mitigation it was said that Mrs Strelley was unable to cope with the demands of caring for the horses and the defending solicitor said it was “well-intentioned, negligent care”.

    Mr Strelley was sentenced to 16 weeks in prison, suspended for one year, and must carry out 180 hours of unpaid community work. Mrs Strelley was sentenced to 12 weeks in prison, suspended for one year. Both must complete 25 rehabilitation activity requirement days and each pay £300 costs and a £115 victim surcharge. They were both banned from keeping equines for five years.

    Twenty-two of the ponies were signed into the care of the RSPCA and 13 remain at the property, but moved away from the “poor environment in which they had been forced to live”. Mr and Mrs Strelley have 28 days to make arrangements for the remaining ponies in their care.

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