The owner of a horse sanctuary has been banned from keeping equines for a decade after she admitted causing suffering to horses in her care.
Sandra Jane Kaverneng-Stolp (commonly known as Sandra Stolp), of Derwen Road, Pontardawe in Swansea, pleaded guilty to four Animal Welfare Act offences relating to 22 horses at Swansea Magistrates’ Court on Monday (15 February).
A total of 137 horses from the Whispering Willows sanctuary – run by Stolp – were signed over to horse charities in November 2019 after concerns were raised about the condition of some of the horses. They were found at sites in Alltwen Isaf Farm in Pontardawe, at Gowerton and in Llanelli over a number of days that month.
The RSPCA-led operation was carried out in conjunction with World Horse Welfare, Redwings, the British Horse Society, the Horse Trust, Blue Cross, Bransby Horses, the Mare & Foal Sanctuary and the Donkey Sanctuary, in an “incredible illustration” of what can be achieved together for animal welfare.
Veterinary statements confirm many of the horses were “in poor bodily condition” – with estimates from a surgeon suggesting some equines in Stolp’s care had been suffering for as long as six months. 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.
Stolp, 54, admitted in court that her failure to adequately explore and address the poor condition or injury of 22 horses led them to suffer unnecessarily – contrary to section 4 of the Animal Welfare Act.
At sentencing, she was banned from keeping all horses for ten years, told to pay £1,000 in costs, a £90 victim surcharge and must serve a 20-week curfew in which she must not leave her home between 9pm and 6am. She must also wear a tag for the duration of the curfew.
RSPCA inspector Keith Hogben said: “Looking after this number of horses properly is a huge challenge and sadly when things went wrong, these horses suffered the consequences.
“Vets were clear that the conditions many of these horses were kept in was not appropriate with unsuitable grazing. Twenty-two 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.
“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.
Many of the horses removed from the sites have since been rehomed.