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Severely lame horse left to suffer overnight: abattoir director found guilty

Those responsible for the suffering of a mare brought to an abattoir significantly lame — and left to suffer overnight — have been fined thousands of pounds.

F Drury & Sons of Tockenham, Wiltshire, and LJ Potter of West Harptree, Somerset, as well as Stephen Potter, the director of both companies, were found guilty of animal welfare offences, at Aldershot Magistrates’ Court on 21 September.

On 22 October 2018, LJ Potter Ltd took a consignment of horses to Drury’s abattoir. The lorry arrived late at night, and as the horses were being unloaded, a grey mare was found lying on her side, unable to get up.

CCTV footage shown to the court showed her attempting to stand five times, but falling over. When she finally reached her feet, she was unable to bear weight on her right front leg, and was “reluctant to move”.

“The court heard evidence from expert witnesses who viewed the CCTV footage that in their opinion, at that stage, either a vet should have been called to assess the condition of the horse, or it should have been put down,” said a spokesman for Wiltshire Council Trading Standards, which brought the prosecution.

“Instead, the court heard that Stephen Potter, who was not present at the abattoir but was viewing the unloading of the horses, instructed the driver to transport the grey mare on a further journey from the abattoir to his farm in Somerset.”

The lorry left but returned soon afterwards, as the mare had been able to get to her feet. This time, she was unloaded, although CCTV footage showed her lameness.

“Experts giving evidence for the prosecution were clear that the horse was suffering, needed urgent veterinary attention and was not fit to be transported,” the spokesman said.

The mare was left alone all night, and found by the vet on duty early the next morning.

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“He took the view that the animal was in a severe condition, breathing rapidly, distressed and therefore needed immediate destruction,” the spokesman said.

District judge Tim Pattinson said Potter had made an error of judgement that had resulted in a horse “suffering for several hours, which could, and should have been avoided”.

“In this country we expect high standards of animal welfare, especially in commercial activity,” he said, adding that Potter had shown “an excessively relaxed approach to the problem” and “underplayed the pain and suffering of the horse”.

A penalty of £22,170 was split between Potter and the two companies, including £10,000 in costs awarded to the council.

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