The vast herd of gypsy cobs amassed by dealer and serial fly-grazer Tom Price is continuing to cause problems for equine charities, long after he was jailed for cruelty charges.
At its peak, Price’s herd is thought to have numbered around 2,500 horses. The authorities in his native Vale of Glamorgan had made him the subject of an anti-social behaviour order in an attempt to stop him fly-grazing his animals.
Price was convicted of 57 cruelty and welfare charges by Cardiff Crown Court in June. He was jailed for eight months and given a five-year ban on keeping equines.
The court suspended the ban for a six-month period — which ends in December — to enable Price to sell his remaining horses. But the RSPCA estimates that he could still have as many as 1,500, some of whom have already been taken in by welfare agencies.
“It is a huge quandary,” said the RSPCA’s Sophie Wilkinson. “We have just removed 29 horses owned by Price from the Gower Peninsula near Swansea. Then there are another few locations where we believe the horses belong to him.”
Price is thought to graze horses at several sites along the M4 corridor in the south of England.
On 26 September the RSPCA and Redwings removed 46 horses from a field near Alton, Hants.
“Some were so thin they would simply not have survived the winter without our help,” said Redwings chief vet Nic de Brauwere.
The horses are thought to belong to Price, but because they were not chipped or passported, the charities cannot confirm this.
Another 50 suspected Price horses in Compton, Surrey, are in such poor condition they are being provided with hay by the RSPCA.
The charity would like to hear from anyone with information about who owns the horses. If Price is still in possession of equines by the December deadline, he will be in breach of his ban and could be prosecuted, said Ms Wilkinson.
Last month, the Welsh Government published a bill to tackle fly-grazing.
Charities have urged Westminster to follow suit, to prevent the problem from moving across the border.
This news story was first published in Horse & Hound magazine (7 November 2013)