A man has been sentenced to jail and banned from keeping all animals for life after 33 horses were rescued, two of which had to be put down and one which died giving birth.

John Michael Humphrey, 32, of Sandway Drive, Thorpe Willoughby, pleaded guilty to 25 offences under the Animal Welfare Act when he appeared at Selby Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday (24 October)

The offences related to 33 horses and donkeys being kept in a field off Main Street, Gowdall, a field near the A63 Selby bypass and a field off Hillam Road, Gateforth.

RSPCA inspector Alice Cooper, who investigated with inspector Claire Mitchell, said it was a “complicated case” owing to the large number of equines and different locations.

“Many of them were suffering and needed urgent veterinary attention, and some of them had to be immediately hospitalised. Two horses were so poorly they had to be put to sleep on veterinary advice, and a third died giving birth such was her poor condition,” said Inspector Cooper.

“Those who weren’t suffering were likely to if their circumstances didn’t change due to the extremely dirty or hazardous environments they were living in, absence of clean, fresh drinking water and lack of suitable food source.”

On 7 April, nine horses were seized by the police after the RSPCA attended the field off Main Street, Gowdall, part of a nature reserve know as Gowdall Ponds. The horses were found living among “various hazards” including ponds, remains of wooden fencing, nails and barbed wire. Several of the horses were pregnant and in poor condition with water only available from ponds and puddles.

A mare with a foal at foot was found to be “very ill” and suffering from “acute colic” when the RSPCA attended the field near the A63 on 22 May. The mare was put to sleep the following day on veterinary advice and four horses were seized.

On 30 May, 18 horses and two donkeys were seized from “disgusting” open barns at the field at Hillam Road, which were found to have rotten haylage and carrots and a maggot-infested water container. One filly was put down on veterinary advice.

Inspector Cooper said: “A three-year-old black filly was in a terrible state. It was obvious within a few minutes of watching her bumping into things that there was an issue with her sight. She was completely blind in one eye and had limited vision in the other, which was very sore. She had overgrown feet, discharge coming from one of her nostrils, respiratory issues and a lice and lice-eggs infestation. The vet decided she needed to be put to sleep to end her suffering.”

The inspector said all the equines had “issues” including a donkey who had a foal at foot and was suffering with overgrown teeth and hooves.

“One horse had a foreign body in his eye which had caused an abscess, several had untreated wounds and injuries. Many had dental issues, parasite issues, were underweight to the point of emaciation and had matted coats. Almost all had discharge coming from their eyes or nose,” said Inspector Cooper.



The donkeys were signed over to the Donkey Sanctuary, which helped with the removal of the animals assisted, and the horses to the RSPCA.

In mitigation, the court heard the horses at Gowdall Ponds had only been there for a short time because of localised flooding. Of the horses at the A63 location, Humphrey said there was a stream and the water troughs were filled daily and supplementary feed provided. Of the equines at Gateforth, he said the horses had come to him from a dying farmer and arrived in poor condition. He said he had had horses all his life and never had any problems, and had signed them all over to the charities.

Humphrey was sentenced to 17 weeks in prison and ordered to pay a £115 victim surcharge.

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