A man has been jailed and given a lifetime disqualification for keeping animals after more than 170 animals, including over 130 horses, were found living in cramped and filthy conditions.
A total of 204 animals were discovered at the farm in Ripley, Surrey, on 9 January last year as part of an RSPCA-led investigation into concerns for the welfare of the horses at the site.
Huge herds of ponies, many riddled with worms, were living in fields with hazardous metal and broken fencing sticking up from thick mud.
Inside two barns were pens full of donkeys, goats, alpacas and ponies. Many were stood upon 2ft-3ft of waste and faeces.
Rescuers found two starving ponies suffering from cyathostominosis, a parasite disease, in one pen and a goat collapsed in another. All three were put to sleep at the scene.
The rest of the animals were taken for appropriate care, including 129 horses and donkeys, 59 dogs, three alpacas, five goats, four chickens and one duck.
Some of the sickest animals received immediate veterinary attention while others were taken for treatment nearby, and those considered fit enough to travel by on-site vets were transferred to rescue centres for care and rehabilitation.
Despite urgent veterinary treatment, 14 horses who were weak, emaciated, had serious worm burdens or were suffering from cyathostominosis died or were put to sleep on veterinary advice.
Two dogs and one goat had to be put to sleep on veterinary advice, and one chicken and one duck also died.
Twenty foals were born into charity care; two were sadly stillborn. Six goat kids, one alpaca and nine puppies were also born into charity care, although two puppies died shortly after birth.
The rescue was one of the UK’s biggest ever animal rescue operations.
Guildford Borough Council, Bucks and Surrey Trading Standards, Bransby Horses, Redwings, The Horse Trust, The Donkey Sanctuary, World Horse Welfare, Dog Trust and a number of vets assisted on the day for the RSPCA-led operation. There were over 100 staff from the different agencies working on the case.
The owner, Geoffrey John Bennett, admitted to animal welfare charges including causing unnecessary suffering to two collapsed ponies and one collapsed goat, and not meeting the needs of more than 100 others.
He has been jailed for 19 weeks and disqualified from keeping all animals for life.
He also pleaded guilty to a number of charges relating to the disposal of animal by-products after bones and skeletons were found at the farm, buried among muck or wrapped in rugs.
‘The most difficult case I’ve seen’
“It took almost 12 hours on the day to assess all of the animals, load them into horseboxes and animal ambulances, and move them off-site,” said RSPCA Special Operations Unit case officer Kirsty Withnall, who coordinated the huge rescue mission and led the investigation.
“This was a huge multi-agency rescue mission which was the culmination of weeks of planning and evidence gathering.”
“As a Rural and Wildlife Crime Officer for Surrey Police, I have witnessed some devastating acts of animal cruelty over the years. This was one of the most difficult cases I’ve seen,” added PC Hollie Iribar.
“I am grateful to the RSPCA and our other partner agencies for the hard work put in to bring this case to trial.
“I’m very glad this heartbreaking case has seen a resolution in the courts, and that the animals involved were rescued and given a second chance at a happy and healthy life.”