A 61-year-old man from Ipswich has been disqualified from keeping all animals after he was sentenced at Ipswich Magistrates' Court yesterday (Tuesday 08 August) for causing unnecessary suffering to six horses.
Gussie Lee appeared before magistrates for sentencing after he pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to causing unnecessary suffering to six horses by failing to explore and address the cause of their poor physical condition and failing to meet the welfare needs of 10 horses (in total) by not ensuring their need for a suitable diet, at a site near to Paper Mill Lane, Ipswich.
He was disqualified from keeping all animals and cannot appeal for 10 years. He was also handed a 16 week suspended sentence for 24 months for causing unnecessary suffering to six horses and 12 weeks prison sentence suspended for two years for failing to meet the needs of 10 horses, to run concurrently. He was also ordered to pay £500 costs and £115 victim surcharge.
Two of the rescued horses when rescued and now
The RSPCA, Redwings Horse Sanctuary and the police attended the site in January and issued a non-statutory warning notice due to the concern for the welfare of the animals. A revisit was conducted by the RSPCA, Redwings and the police and it was found that Lee had not addressed the welfare issues highlighted to him and that the horses’ physical condition had deteriorated further. Ten horses were then seized by police on veterinary grounds following assessment by attending Redwings Welfare Veterinary Surgeon Nicola Berryman.
Redwings’ welfare vet described six horses as being in poor bodily condition, and were dull, depressed and lethargic. All the equines in the field appeared extremely hungry and were found to have high worm burdens.
Two horses appeared weak when they walked and were unstable on their limbs, the whole field had a large amount of fresh ragwort plants (toxic to equines when consumed) growing amongst the sparse grass. There was no evidence of concentrate feed or fresh forage being provided for the equines.
Officers found some horses to be extremely hungry, dehydrated, suffering from lice infestation and had overgrown and cracked hooves. A five year-old skewbald cob (since named Dove by Redwings) was given a body condition score of 0 out of 5.
“Despite attempts by the RSPCA and Redwings to work with the owner to improve the lives of these horses, he continued to ignore their plight," said RSPCA Inspector Dave Podmore.
"We have to operate within the law, and we try very hard to balance the needs of the animals with the rights of the owners to give them a chance to put matters right. The vast majority of owners care a great deal about their animals and are happy to take advice on that basis.
"Fortunately on those rare occasions such as this one where warnings and advice are ignored the law does allow us to step in. In this case we worked closely with Redwings and Suffolk police and we are hugely grateful to their support in securing the welfare of the horses and a successful prosecution.”
Redwings’ welfare veterinary surgeon Nicola Berryman, was pleased that justice was served for this group of horses, who largely consisted of mares with foals at foot.
"Those six who I identified as of particular concern were brought back to Redwings for immediate veterinary care," he said. "The mares were in a particularly upsetting state being incredibly emaciated and having a body condition score of 0 or 0.5 out of 5.
“Since their rescue one mare – seven-year-old piebald cob Brook – gave birth to a foal at the Sanctuary who we have named Chad. The group of now seven have all been named along a Suffolk theme and are recovering well. Some have ongoing needs that mean sadly they will not have the opportunity to be rehomed, but they will always have a home with us at the Sanctuary.”
Redwings and the RSPCA would also like to reassure the public that they continue to keep a close eye on horses at the nearby Paper Mill Lane in Bramford and are working closely with the landowner and the tenant (not the defendant mentioned above) to ensure a long-term management plan for the horses and great strides have already been made.