Man sentenced after filly found so emaciated she could barely stand

  • The owner of a filly who became so emaciated she could barely stand, and later had to be put down, told a court he had done nothing wrong.

    George Turner, 37, of Broad Balk Lane, York, denied causing unnecessary suffering and failing to meet the needs of the thoroughbred-type filly, but was found guilty of both offences after a trial at York Magistrates Court on 12 and 14 December.

    An RSPCA spokesman said the charity was contacted by a member of the public, who provided pictures of the horse’s emaciated condition.

    The court heard RSPCA inspector Alice Cooper, a World Horse Welfare representative, a vet and two police officers attended Turner’s field in Norton-Le-Clay on 23 November 2020. When Turner arrived, he confirmed that the filly and four other thoroughbred-type horses belonged to him.

    In her evidence to the court, Ms Cooper said the filly was “very thin”.

    “Her spine was prominent and protruded like a ridge along her back, and the bones around her back end looked sharp and pointy. Her demeanour seemed very subdued, and she stood with her head bowed. When walking she appeared slow and quite weak,” she said.

    The young horse was also found to be suffering from “extensive” rainscald, and did not have any shelter. The vet confirmed she was suffering and she was seized by the police.

    The RSPCA spokesman said when the transport arrived, she was so weak that she collapsed as she stepped on to the trailer and had to be supported back to her feet, with a strap placed around her. She was taken to a specialist equine hospital for treatment, then on to a boarding establishment, and most days she had to be “assisted to stand up”.

    “Her condition then sadly deteriorated even further and vets made the decision to put her down on humane grounds to prevent further suffering,” said the spokesman.

    “A post mortem revealed she had an emaciated body condition, extensive ulceration of the stomach, which may have been predisposed by a lack of adequate food, and a heavy worm burden.”

    The vet told the court it was her professional opinion that it would have taken a minimum of six weeks for the filly to become emaciated and that she had been caused to suffer unnecessarily for at least two.

    “The clinical examination of this horse showed an animal that was in extremely poor condition and was very obviously sick and in need of veterinary attention,” she said.

    “The horse was very dull and weak and it would have been obvious to even a layperson that she was in extremely poor body condition and emaciated. These factors were chronic in nature and a responsible, reasonable and caring horse owner would have recognised that the horse was failing to thrive and was becoming emaciated.”

    The vet added that the forage provided in the field was not enough to provide all the horses with their daily nutritional requirements.

    “The filly may have experienced competition for food and as such should have been provided with ad-lib food, and parasite control and veterinary care,” she said.

    The court heard that Ms Cooper made repeated attempts to contact Turner to interview him about the filly, but was told he was a “busy man”. In January 2021 a solicitor contacted the RSPCA to arrange an interview for Turner, but it never went ahead and Turner represented himself in court.

    During the trial Turner stated he “had not done anything wrong” and that he did not want to be disqualified from keeping equines as “he had knowledge of horses and had been successful in raising them in the past”. In mitigation he said he had financial difficulties, but did not produce any details to corroborate his circumstances.

    At the sentencing hearing on 10 January he was given an 18-week custodial sentence, suspended for 12 months. He was banned from keeping equines for 10 years and ordered to pay £1,928 costs and a £128 victim surcharge. The court issued a deprivation order for Turner’s remaining four horses.

    “This was a very distressing case and we would like to thank World Horse Welfare and other partner agencies for their assistance, as well as the members of the public who reported their concerns about this young horse to us,” said RSPCA chief inspector Justin Le Masurier.

    “A responsible owner would have intervened and provided their animal with veterinary attention long before they had got into such an appalling state. This didn’t happen and sadly this filly suffered unnecessarily for a long time as a result of Mr Turner’s neglect.”

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