Woman jailed as 12 horses rescued from ‘heartbreaking’ conditions and colt put put down

  • A woman has been sent to prison for keeping 13 horses in “heartbreaking conditions”, one of whom had to be put down.

    Davina Leedham, 62, of no fixed abode, was sentenced at Lincoln Magistrates’ Court on 25 October, following a trial in her absence in July. She was convicted of causing unnecessary suffering to 12 horses and ponies by failing to address their poor condition and failing to seek veterinary care for a gelding’s leg wound. She was also found guilty of failing to meet the needs of three other horses.

    An arrest warrant without bail was issued following the trial and she was arrested last month, and held in custody.

    In July 2019 RSPCA inspectors and officers from Bransby Horses attended a location in Branston Fen, Bardney, following concerns raised by the police, who were in the area dealing with an unrelated matter. A vet was also in attendance.

    An RSPCA spokesman said a large number of horses were found, many in poor condition.

    “Many of those found outside were kept in areas where there was little to no grass available in any of the enclosures and there was no shelter,” said the spokesman.

    “Inside a barn were three penned areas housing two ponies and a horse. The first small enclosure housed a chestnut pony in poor condition, with spine and pelvis clearly visible and hooves overgrown. The pen was very small and was constructed from a combination of metal gates and wooden pallets, measuring approximately eight feet by eight feet.”

    Further into the barn a bay horse was found in a slightly larger enclosure with six-feet high fencing, “giving the appearance of a cage”. The horse’s ribs and spine were “clearly visible”, its hooves were overgrown and it was weaving its head from side to side. Another horse had a wound on its quarters that “should have been attended and treated”.

    “Sadly one young colt was in so much discomfort and pain due to persistent lameness an independent vet advised he should be put down on welfare grounds to prevent him suffering further,” said the spokesman.

    RSPCA inspector Kate Burris said the conditions the horses were being kept in were “unacceptable”, with “so many of them in such poor condition”.
    “It was heartbreaking,” she said.

    “We are so grateful to Bransby for taking on such a large number of horses and I am so pleased that they have all thrived since being in their care.”

    In mitigation Leedham said she had failed to attend the trial as her mother had been ill and that one horse, Cracker, had been under vet treatment.

    She was sentenced to 20 weeks’ immediate custody, banned from keeping all animals for 10 years and ordered to pay £500 costs.

    “We were able to provide the specialist care and attention these horses needed thanks to the fantastic support we receive from the public and we thank them unreservedly – it doesn’t bear thinking what would have happened were it not for charities like us and the RSPCA,” said Bransby welfare manager Rachel Jenkinson.

    “Following a long road the horses have recovered well but the trauma they endured cannot be ignored. We would urge anyone who is struggling to care for their horses or who knows someone who is, to please call our welfare hotline. We are here to help and will do everything in our power to prevent a situation such as this happening again.

    “Keeping horses is a responsibility that should not be taken lightly.”

    Contact the Bransby welfare hotline on 01327 787369.

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