Indefinite ban for woman who failed to seek treatment for horse’s foot abscess

A woman has been given an indefinite ban on keeping animals after she failed to provide the right care for a horse with a foot abscess and put another at risk of laminitis.

Melissa Hetherington, 45, of Houghton Regis, was fined £1,000, ordered to pay £1,100 in costs and disqualified from keeping any animal for an indefinite duration at St Albans Magistrates’ Court on 27 June.

World Horse Welfare was contacted about the horses by a concerned member of the public. An officer from the charity visited the horse on 11 October 2018 and made attempts to contact the owner to advise the horse needed to see a vet as soon as possible. The officer returned the following day and called a vet and the RSPCA.

Hetherington was found guilty at a hearing on 5 June of two offences under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 of causing unnecessary suffering to a piebald known as Leo between 9 September and 12 October. These were by failing to take remedial steps and/or provide veterinary care for a foot abscess and for failing to take remedial steps and/or provide veterinary care for laminitis.

She was also found guilty of a third offence under the act for the same time period, which was not taking reasonable steps to ensure the needs of a grey cob named Bob were being met, by allowing him to become obese and at risk of laminitis.

An RSPCA spokesman told H&H the reason given in Hetherington’s defence was financial.

Prosecutor Mark Jones told the court the incident was investigated by the RSPCA, officers from World Horse Welfare and a vet.

The horses were seized by police on 12 October and placed into the care of the RSPCA.

Both horses were taken into World Horse Welfare’s care and were signed over by the owner.

“Leo was severely lame and was struggling to bear weight on his left front leg,” said RSPCA inspector Jaime Godfrey following the sentencing.

“His hooves were very long, misshapen and cracked. His [near fore] hoof was later x-rayed and a foot abscess was found, which was the cause of the acute lameness. All four feet had evidence that Leo was suffering from chronic laminitis.

“Had the owner sought veterinary care earlier then his suffering could have been easily prevented. We are grateful to World Horse Welfare for taking in Leo and Bob.”

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World Horse Welfare field officer Rebecca Bedson added: “Leo was clearly in great pain, given the substantial size of the abscess. It was a pleasure to see his immediate relief once the pressure was released.

“It’s dreadful to think how long he may have been suffering, for want of a straightforward procedure to solve the problem. He has made a good recovery at our centre in Norfolk and he and Bobby will soon be ready to find a loving new homes.”

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