Shetland breeder who left ponies to suffer with ‘extreme’ laminitis sent to prison

  • A Shetland pony breeder who had a “veneer of respectability within the showing world” has been sent to prison for allowing 19 ponies to suffer, eight of which had to be put down.

    Retired school teacher Janet Marr, 73, of Sandall Park Rise, Doncaster, was sentenced at Sheffield Crown Court yesterday (28 May) after pleading guilty to four offences under the Animal Welfare Act.

    In July 2023 World Horse Welfare was contacted by a member with concerns over ponies being kept at Wrancarr Lane, Moss, Doncaster. When the charity’s field officers attended they found 19 Shetland ponies in “varying states of neglect”, and requested the assistance of the RSPCA to investigate further.

    A World Horse Welfare spokesperson said “most of the ponies were overweight, many had overgrown hooves, and a number showed signs of extreme laminitis”.

    “Tragically, the severity of neglect resulted in six of the ponies needing to be euthanised onsite due to the pain and suffering caused by chronic laminitis,” he said.

    An RSPCA spokesperson added that an equine vet concluded in their witness report that all the problems and suffering seen in the ponies “could all have been avoided by reasonable practical means, and that they are of the expert opinion that Marr did not take reasonable steps to meet their basic needs”.

    The other 13 ponies were taken to World Horse Welfare’s Penny Farm, but “despite all efforts”, two more were put down owing to their health issues. The remaining ponies have been “successfully rehabilitated”.

    The court heard that Marr had been breeding the animals for showing, and she accepted what she was accused of. She was sentenced to 12 months in prison and given a lifetime ban on keeping all animals. She cannot apply for the ban to be lifted for 12 years. A deprivation order was granted for two Shetlands that remained in her care.

    “I am absolutely delighted to see the increased sentencing guidelines for animal cruelty that we successfully campaigned for, being used to good effect. We hope that we see more uses of lifetime bans in future cases,” said World Horse Welfare field officer Sarah Tucker.

    “The defendant had a veneer of respectability within the showing world with two of her ponies well-looked after and in show condition, but she allowed the others to suffer in such a dreadful way, despite having received a previous caution for identical offences. So many of this group of Shetlands were suffering with laminitis and the owner will now see the consequences of allowing this to happen.”

    Adam Cummins, World Horse Welfare Penny Farm manager, added that “ponies grazing endless, lush grass may seem idyllic, but the reality is very different”.

    “Allowed to breed unchecked, and with uncontrolled grazing, the ever-growing herd suffered horrendously with a number of conditions, and laminitis was rife,” he said.

    “It has been a long road with the surviving ponies – it takes us longer to turn around an overweight pony than one that is underweight. The number that didn’t make it shows just how devastating laminitis can be.”

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