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Shropshire woman jailed for 20 weeks for treatment of her horse

The body condition of the chestnut mare had deteriorated significantly before her death from suspected hypothermia last year.
Credit: RSPCA Cymru

A Bridgnorth woman has been sent to jail for 20 weeks and banned from keeping animals for life, after failing to investigate her horse’s poor bodily condition and weight loss before the animal’s death from suspected hypothermia.

Victoria Young, 42, of Oak Bank, Alveley, pleaded guilty to an Animal Welfare Act offence and was sentenced at Kidderminster Magistrates Court on 25 November.

The RSPCA was contacted in late December last year after the dead body of a chestnut mare, named Diamond, was found at a site on an unnamed lane in the Alveley area of Bridgnorth.

Diamond had been kept in the field and stables at the site since mid-2020 – at which time, the horse was in good bodily condition.

However, Young failed to investigate Diamond’s deteriorating condition and weight loss in the months which followed, which vets believe caused the horse to suffer from late October until her death on 29 December.

Veterinary testimony suggests Diamond’s condition declined due to Young’s failure to provide a suitable diet.

An expert witness report given to the court notes a lack of available grazing at the field, and the presence of ragwort. There was a lack of grass growth after October, while hay was only seen in the field on one occasion by witnesses; with no provision of supplementary food.

Vets feel the most likely cause of Diamond’s death was hypothermia. She was found without a rug upon her death, despite temperatures frequently falling below zero in Bridgnorth in the weeks preceding, with weather conditions described by witnesses as “horrendous”, including “snow, rain and terrific winds”.

Diamond had been spotted trying to eat from trees before her death – considered to be abnormal behaviour for a horse.

Young was sentenced to 20 weeks imprisonment for her treatment of Diamond, and banned from keeping all animals for life – a ruling she may not contest for a period of five years. She was also told to pay costs of £750 and a victim surcharge of £128.

Following the sentencing hearing, RSPCA inspector Thea Kerrison, who investigated, said: “This poor horse suffered as a consequence of her owner’s failure to investigate her rapidly declining body condition and weight loss.

“Unfortunately, poor Diamond simply didn’t have an appropriate diet – with grazing conditions totally unsuitable, and supplementary food lacking.

“When her dead body was found last December – Diamond wasn’t even wearing a rug, despite the severe recent weather conditions – and vets suspect she died due to hypothermia. Her body was thin and I could see her ribs.

“Clearly, this tragic situation could have been avoided had her owner addressed the causes of this horse’s deteriorating state. This case reminds us what can go wrong when owners do not take their legal obligations to their animals seriously.”

The call about Diamond last year was one of 51,000 calls received by the RSPCA last December – that’s one call every minute.

Inspector Thea added: “Christmas should be a time for togetherness and a time to be safe inside, loved and protected from the cold – but for thousands of innocent animals this is sadly not the case.

“As we were in lockdown last year, we expect to get even more calls this Christmas. Cruelly treated, neglected and  abandoned, many animals again face a Christmas of continued abuse or slow starvation, without warmth or affection.”