Whispering Willows sanctuary owner banned after 137 horses removed and two put down  

  • The owner of a sanctuary from which 137 horses were removed after concerns were raised for their welfare has been banned from keeping horses for a decade.

    Sandra Jane Kaverneng-Stolp, known as Sandra Stolp, who ran the Whispering Willows sanctuary, pleaded guilty to causing suffering to animals in her care.

    The 54-year-old, of Derwen Road, Pontardawe, Swansea, pleaded guilty to four offences under the Animal Welfare Act, relating to 22 horses, at Swansea Magistrates’ Court yesterday (15 February).

    The 137 horses, found at three sites, were signed over to equine charities in November 2019, after concerns were raised. A multi-agency operation involving the RSPCA, World Horse Welfare, Redwings, the British Horse Society, the Horse Trust, Blue Cross, Bransby Horses, the Mare & Foal Sanctuary and the Donkey Sanctuary was described as an “incredible illustration” of what can be achieved for animal welfare by joint working.

    Vets confirmed many of the horses were in poor condition; one estimated that some of them had been suffering for six months or more.

    An RSPCA spokesman said: “Photographs shown to the court show hips, spine and ribs clearly visible on some of the horses.

    “Unfortunately, two of the horses found during the operation, to which charges relate, had to be put to sleep soon afterwards due to welfare problems. One was found with a high heart rate, low body temperature and with the tail crusted in large volumes of dried faecal material, while another, who was initially found lame and reluctant to move, was later unable to rise despite rehabilitation efforts and had to be put to sleep nine days after being found.”

    RSPCA inspector Keith Hogben said looking after so many horses properly is a “huge challenge”.

    “Sadly, when things went wrong, these horses suffered the consequences,” he said.

    “Vets were clear that the conditions many of these horses were kept in was not appropriate with unsuitable grazing — 22 animals suffered because they were not given the care they needed by this sanctuary.

    “We’re so grateful to the other equine organisations who supported this partnership operation. It’s an incredible illustration of what we can achieve together for animal welfare.

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    “It was a huge undertaking; and their assistance with boarding, transportation and administration has been invaluable in helping these equines in their hour of need. Thankfully, it has meant many of these horses will get a second chance of happiness.”

    The court heard in mitigation Stolp was struggling financially to care for the more than 100 horses in her care.

    She admitted that her failure to adequately explore and address the poor condition or injury of 22 horses led them to suffer unnecessarily.

    She was banned from keeping all horses for 10 years and ordered to pay £1,000 in costs and a £90 victim surcharge. She must serve a 20-week curfew, during which she will wear a tag, and must not leave her home between 9pm and 6am.

    Many of the horses have since been rehomed.

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