Shropshire Star

Four banned from keeping animals for life after horses found in 'woeful' neglect

A man has been banned from keeping animals for life after neglecting two horses in his care, one of them left so severely lame it had to be euthanised.

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The Appaloosa mare. Pic: RSPCA

Mark Walklate, now 50, pleaded guilty at Kidderminster Magistrates Court on Monday to causing unnecessary suffering to an Appaloosa mare and its skewbald filly (a young female) at a premises in Bridgnorth between December 2020 and January 2021.

Three other people who lived or worked on the site have already been given lifetime bans for their part in the neglect of horses there, the neglect deemed so serious two men were sent to jail and one was ordered to pay an eye-watering £22,864.

The court previously heard that the RSPCA was called to Six Ashes in Bridgnorth on January 27 2021 after receiving a call from police about concerns for horses kept there.

Officers from the charity attended alongside local horse veterinarians, and the vets found three horses they deemed to be suffering: the Appaloosa mare, the skewbald filly and a Palomino.

The Palomino was found to be badly lame in one leg and the mare in more than one leg, the latter struggling to walk even with intravenous medication for the pain.

The mare was in such severe suffering that the vets considered euthanising her on the site for her own welfare, but agreed to remove her and assess her the next day.

Unfortunately they found no improvement and it was decided that she would be euthanised.

Walklate, of Bromley Lane, Kingswinford, previously pleaded guilty to four offences under the Animal Welfare Act in that he caused unnecessary suffering to the filly and the mare and he did not take steps to ensure their needs were met.

The Appaloosa mare found at Six Ashes, Bridgnorth. Photo: RSPCA

He admitted a litany of failings including keeping the horses in muddy, filthy conditions with "negligible" room to graze, not providing veterinary care when needed and failing to protect them from pain, suffering, injury or disease.

In a written statement provided to the court, inspector Thea Kerrison said the Appaloosa mare was found in one of the stables.

She said: “I was in the barn when the Appaloosa mare from stable two was led out. I hadn’t realised when she was in the stable how bad she was; she could hardly walk and she seemed to stumble across the barn floor as she was led out.”

The Appaloosa mare found at Six Ashes, Bridgnorth. Photo: RSPCA

The inspector also noted the conditions the horses were kept in.

“The ground on both fields was very boggy and on entering to assess the ponies it was extremely difficult to not get our wellies stuck in the mud, even when staying to the fence line,” she said.

“As with the first stable, stables two to four had wet slushy floors and no dry bedding. On the opposite side were the remaining four stables.

"Stable five had a group of five yearlings. The stable was of average size and so was very crowded with the five horses and hardly any room for them to move around.

“The floor was covered in faeces and urine and I could not see any evidence of bedding. Stable six contained four yearlings, again with a covering of faeces and urine on the floor. Some of the horses had rugs but it was clear all four were of lean body condition."

The Skewbald filly found at Six Ashes, Bridgnorth. Photo: RSPCA

An independent expert vet said in his report that it was his opinion that “all three horses were suffering”. The report said: “The suffering of all three horses could have been easily avoided by provision of veterinary assessment and treatment to them.

“It is my expert opinion that the reasonable needs of the horses were not met and that the standards of animal husbandry at the location fell woefully below the most basic of standards.

“The fundamental problem is that the horses were severely overstocked in comparison to the facilities and space available at the property and this was compounded by a lack of effort to ensure that necessary daily tasks such as feeding, mucking out and checking on the welfare of the horses for signs of injury or ill health were carried out to an appropriate level.”

Walklate's part in the neglect was deemed so serious magistrates handed down a prison sentence of 14 weeks, although they suspended it for a period of 18 months.

He was also ordered to pay a surcharge of £128 and costs of £850, plus carry out 100 hours of unpaid work.

Three other people were previously sentenced as part of the same case, two of them serving jail time.

The Appaloosa mare found at Six Ashes, Bridgnorth. Photo: RSPCA

Steven Morgan, 52 and of Foxdale Drive in Brierley Hill, Gary Hart, 64 and Victoria Hart, 35, both of Six Ashes in Bridgnorth, were sentenced at Kidderminster Magistrates Court on November 28 last year.

Morgan and Victoria Hart were convicted of six offences - four of causing the unnecessary suffering of the skewbald filly, the Appaloosa mare and the Palomino, and two relating to the conditions of 36 horses kept at Six Ashes.

Gary Hart was found guilty of six offences, the first four of causing unnecessary suffering to the filly, the mare and the Palomino, and two related to the conditions of three horses in total.

Gary Hart and Steven Morgan were jailed for 26 weeks each, serving half on licence, and banned from keeping animals for life, with no recourse to appeal for 10 years.

Gary Hart was ordered to pay prosecution costs of £22,684 and Morgan must pay £1,000 towards costs, with both men also to pay a £128 victim surcharge.

Victoria Hart also received a 26-week custodial sentence which was suspended for one year, and was banned from keeping all animals. She was also ordered to pay £1,000 costs and a victim surcharge of £128.

The defendants have lodged appeals against their sentences.

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