‘About the thinnest horse’ vet had seen put down to end her suffering

  • A case involving “about the thinnest” horse a vet had ever seen has concluded with three people being banned from keeping equines for seven years.

    Kerry Ruth Pugh, of Bosbury, Ledbury, Herefordshire, Jessica Paige Pugh, of Arlington Place, Broom Hall, Worcester, and Oliver Daelan Fairy, of Tan House Lane, Malvern, appeared at Hereford Magistrate’ Court on Tuesday 30 January.

    Oliver, 21, pleaded guilty to failing to meet the needs of grey mare Totti, Kerry, 43, and Jessica, 21, to failing to meet the needs of chestnut mare Autumn.

    In a statement given to the court, RSPCA inspector Suzanne Smith said she went to a yard in Ledbury on 22 March last year, after the charity had had a call about underweight horses.

    Ms Smith said: “[Autumn] was wearing a rug, but I could see she was extremely angular with the rug hanging on her like she was a coat hanger. There was no food or water in the stable, there was no bedding, there was some faeces.”

    The yard owner said Autumn was owned by Jess Pugh and Oliver Fairy. The latter told Ms Smith the horse was Jess’s, and that he had spoken to a vet the previous night as the mare had had choke, but that he did not know when she had been seen by a vet before that.

    Ms Smith said: “I went into the stable and removed the rug. As I suspected, the horse was extremely underweight with all bones exposed, a clear thigh gap between her buttock cheeks, the rib cage was fully visible with a shelf along the top where it met with the spinal processors.


    “While waiting for the vet, as Autumn had no food or water I asked if some could be provided and a slice of hay in a small haynet was hung in the stable and the small empty bucket which was in the stable was filled. Autumn drank immediately and had eaten all the hay by the time the vet arrived.”

    A vet who attended assessed Autumn and said he had spoken to the owner the previous evening about the choke, but a visit was not agreed by the owner. Ms Smith added: “He then clearly said that the horse was about the thinest horse he’d seen and confirmed suffering.”

    In the vet’s statement provided to the court, he said the mare’s body condition was 0.5 out of five and that there was strong evidence “to support parasitism for the poor body condition of the horse”.

    The vet added: “This should be easily rectifiable… This is an easily preventable situation if normal husbandry had been upheld, and it is suggestive that an appropriate diet and routine healthcare had not been performed.”

    Jessica and her mother Kerry went to the yard on 22 March, an RSPCA spokesman said, and a transfer of ownership form for Autumn was signed by Kerry Pugh, who said she was the owner and the passport was in her name. Transport arrived and Autumn was taken to RSPCA boarding.

    Ms Smith was also told a grey mare, known as Totti, had left the yard five days before her visit, having been with Oliver on a lease or loan, and gone back to her owner in north Wales.

    The court heard Ms Smith called Totti’s owner, and it was requested that a vet went to assess Totti. The vet confirmed the mare had been suffering, and found an “above normal faecal worm egg count”.

    The vet added that blood and faecal test results were consistent with a “high intestinal parasite burden” which could contribute to weight loss, the RSPCA spokesman said, adding that the test results could also be present with other conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease. The weight loss was described as “severe” and would have occurred over a long period of time.

    “Autumn was footsore upon arrival in RSPCA care, she received remedial farriery alongside her re-feeding programme,” the spokesman said. “She recovered her weight after receiving an appropriate worming and refeeding programme, however it became clear that despite trying to resolve her lameness issues, which was found to stem from her shoulder, her welfare was affected and sadly on veterinary grounds the decision had to be made to put her to sleep.”

    All three were banned from keeping equines. Oliver was fined £450, with a £180 surcharge, and the Pughs were fined £196, with a £78 surcharge. All must pay £200 costs.

    In mitigation Oliver accepted full responsibility for his failure to ensure Totti was provided with the correct vet assistance and nourishment. It was heard that his involvement with Totti was relatively limited and another person was attending to the horses but ultimately he had the overriding responsibility for her care.

    In mitigation for Jessica and Kerry Pugh it was heard that they had entrusted someone else to look after Autumn and feed her daily, but admitted they should have taken responsibility themselves and checked. They called the vet when the first signs of choking showed.

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