A man has been banned from owning all animals after “continually ignoring the plight” of the horses in his care.
In January, the RSPCA, police and Redwings senior field officer Julie Harding were called out following concerns for the welfare of a group of horses.
A warning notice was issued to the owner, 61-year-old Gussie Lee, of Woodlands Way, Ipswich, but a second visit revealed that these had not been addressed.
Ten horses were seized on veterinary grounds following assessment by Redwings’ attending vet Nicola Berryman.
Six were identified as of particular concern, in poor body condition, “dull, depressed and lethargic”.
“All horses appeared extremely hungry and the whole field had a large amount of ragwort growing among the sparse grass,” said a Redwings spokesman.
A five year-old skewbald cob, since named Dove, was given a body condition score of 0 out of 5.
Many of the horses were also found to have high worm burdens, and be suffering from lice, dehydration and overgrown and cracked hooves.
The six horses of particular concern were brought to a Redwings centre for immediate veterinary attention and have since been signed over into the charity’s permanent care. The remaining four were rehomed to the RSPCA.
Lee was disqualified from keeping all animals at Ipswich Magistrates’ Court on 8 August. He was banned from keeping animals until the court allows him to do so again, which will be for at least 10 years.
He had previously pleaded guilty to causing unnecessary suffering to six horses by failing to address their poor physical condition at a site near Paper Mill Lane, Bramford.
Lee also pleaded guilty to failing to meet the welfare needs of these six horses plus another four by not ensuring their need for a suitable diet.
He was given a 16-week prison sentence, suspended for 24 months, for causing unnecessary suffering to the six horses, and a 12-week prison sentence, also suspended for two years, for failing to meet the needs of all 10, to run concurrently.
He was also ordered to pay £500 costs and a £115 victim surcharge.
“Despite attempts by the RSPCA and Redwings to work with the owner to improve the lives of these horses, he continued to ignore their plight,” said Ms Berryman.
“The group largely consisted of mares with foals at foot, so it was particularly upsetting to see them in this state.”
Since their rescue, one mare – seven-year-old piebald cob Brook – has given birth to a foal at the sanctuary who staff have named Chad (pictured top).
The group of seven have all been named on a Suffolk theme and are recovering well.
“Some have ongoing needs that mean sadly they will not have the opportunity to be rehomed, but they will always have a home with us at the sanctuary,” added Ms Berryman.
Ms Harding added: “As always we are encouraged that justice has been served, but struggle to understand how horses can be allowed to fall into this state of suffering.
“It is incredibly important for owners to be aware of and adhere to their responsibilities in providing adequate care for their horses, as well as to be aware of their limitations or where they may be struggling before it is too late.
“We have been working to help the horses of this area for many years. Following investigations, it was clear that these horses belonged to one owner who was not providing adequate care. This case demonstrates that when there is a need we respond and use the animal welfare legislation available to us to intervene and help bring an owner to account.”
RSPCA inspector Dave Podmore added: “We have to operate within the law, and we try very hard to balance the needs of the animals with the rights of the owners to give them a chance to put matters right.
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“The vast majority of owners care a great deal about their animals and are happy to take advice on that basis.
“Fortunately on those rare occasions such as this one where warnings and advice are ignored the law does allow us to step in. In this case we worked closely with Redwings and Suffolk police and we are hugely grateful to their support in securing the welfare of the horses and a successful prosecution.”
A Redwings spokesman added it is important to note that the defendant in this case is not the same person as the current tenant on the nearby Paper Mill Lane site.
“We would like to reassure the public that we are continuing to keep a close eye on horses at Paper Mill Lane in Bramford and are working closely with the landowner and the tenant to ensure a long-term management plan for the horses and great strides have already been made,” he said.