Suspended sentence for man who used vehicle to chase badly injured horse *Warning: graphic content*

  • A man has been given an 18-week suspended prison sentence and banned from keeping horses for 18 months after a mare was found with halter injuries so severe that bone was exposed and she had to be put down.

    Stephen Lees, 61, of St Asaph, was found guilty of an offence under the Animal Welfare Act in his absence, and was sentenced at Mold Magistrates’ Court on 13 May.

    RSPCA inspector Jenny Anderton attended a farm on Cwttir Lane in St Asaph, Denbighshire, in October 2019 following concerns of welfare of a grey Arab mare.

    The horse was seen in a field with a roller around her body and a rope headcollar on her head, with the lead rope dangling to the floor. The horse repeatedly stood on the rope, causing the head collar to tighten more and more each time.

    “We urged the man to seek veterinary attention for the horse and to get help in catching the distressed horse if this was needed — but this was not heeded,” said RSPCA chief inspector Leanne Hardy, following the sentencing.

    “At the site our inspector Jenny Anderton instead witnessed the man driving after the horse in a vehicle and beeping the horn repeatedly. This would only have caused the horse great distress and only made a bad situation even worse.

    “RSPCA Cymru brought an independent vet to the site — who was able to sedate the horse, remove the rope and check her over. Sadly, the injuries were so severe that they were of the opinion she should be put to sleep to prevent further suffering.”

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    The RSPCA had urged Lees to seek urgent veterinary attention for the horse and to find a vet who could use a sedation dart if she could not be caught.

    The charity witnessed him trying to catch the mare by driving after her and he told them that he had “absolutely no intention of incurring any vet bills”.

    It is understood he denied actually owning the horse and said he had had to leave the area on 2 October, 2019, as his daughter was giving birth. When he returned he was told others had been ‘chasing’ the horse.

    The RSPCA later contacted a vet, who sedated her using a dart. They found that bone on the horse’s head had been left exposed, and there were deep wounds on the underside of the jaw area.

    Maggots and eggs were found in her wounds and the veterinary opinion concluded that the horse “had been caused unnecessary pain and suffering by having had a rope halter tied to [her] face and being placed into a field”.

    Lees was sentenced to 18 weeks’ imprisonment, suspended for 18 months. He was also disqualified from keeping all equines for 18 months, ordered to undertake 25 rehabilitation days over the next 18 months, and pay £600 costs and a £122 victim surcharge.

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