Suspected ragwort poisoning kills two mares: Owners handed lifetime ban

  • A mother and son have received a lifetime ban from keeping equines after two horses they owned died of suspected ragwort poisoning.

    Katrina and Liam Till of Deykin Road, Lichfield appeared before Stafford Magistrates for sentencing on Thursday (3 December).

    Both had both been found guilty of offences relating to Animal Welfare Act, on 24 November, which included failure to explore and address the horses’ poor body condition, failure to provide adequate diet, failure to provide sufficient worm and lice control, and failure to provide adequate foot care.

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    Redwings Horse Sanctuary assisted the RSPCA with the rescue of the horses on two separate occasions. On 3 October 2014 a two-year-old 13hh piebald cob called Bella (pictured, top) was removed from a field in Staffordshire. On 19 December 2014 a 20-year-old 14hh palomino cob cross called Holly was seized.

    Both mares were seized on veterinary grounds having been discovered in very poor condition. Bella was body condition score 1 and Holly 0.5. Both had foals at foot.

    Holly & Bella98884a390dd0738b_orgLiam Till was disqualified from keeping equines for life and received a suspended prison sentence, community order for 18 months and £750 costs.

    Katrina Till was also disqualified from keeping equines for life and received a community order for 18 months, plus £750 costs. Both received a confiscation order regarding the two foals.

    Bella initially showed signs of improvement while in the care of the Redwings Oxhill team being bright and alert, eating well. However, within three months of her rescue she began to lose her appetite and struggled to maintain her weight.

    Bella and her foal were then moved to the Sanctuary’s veterinary hospital for a liver biopsy and blood tests, which confirmed serious liver disease.

    Bella’s liver was so damaged that she was put down in February 2015. Bella left behind her foal “Arabella”, who was named by the Redwings team in memory of her mother.

    Arabella, pictured, following her recovery

    Arabella, pictured, following her recovery

    Holly initially arrived at Redwings Oxhill as a severely underweight and unhandled mare, displaying wild, frightened behaviours. Holly and her foal were taken to Redwings’ quarantine centre in Norfolk.

    As well as being incredibly malnourished, Holly was suffering from worms, lice and a lack of dental care.

    However, similarly to Bella, Holly was also found to have liver disease. She was put down in March.

    “When I found Bella and her foal they were in such a bad way,” said RSPCA inspector Kate Levesley.

    “Bella was emaciated and was unable to provide any milk for little Arabella. It was a relief when police removed them and placed them into the care of Redwings. Then, it was shocking to find Holly and her foal Savannah in an equally bad way just two months later, and so thankfully again, police were able to remove them and place them at Redwings. This ban means that these two people will not be able to neglect horses again.”

    Redwings’ Nicolas de Brauwere said the charity was pleased to hear the outcome.

    “But as with so many welfare cases we see, this should not have happened to these mares in the first place,” he added.

    “We believe their liver disease was as a result of ragwort poisoning; as they were not provided with suitable grazing or an adequate diet, it is most likely they would have consumed ragwort in their field.

    “Holly’s foal Savannah (pictured, below) initially displayed similar symptoms of liver compromise as shown by her mother and Bella, but as this has been caught early we’re very hopeful for her future.


    “It’s very upsetting that in both cases Bella and Holly responded well in the early days after their rescue — having been given the basic care and nourishment they were so desperately lacking from their owners — but then went downhill so rapidly. Their case is extremely upsetting, but we take some comfort in that justice has been served for the mares – and for their foals.”

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