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‘Devastating cruelty’: suspended sentence for girl who uncared for greater than 100 horses and different animals

  • A woman who mistreated more than 100 animals has been given a suspended sentence and a lifetime ban on keeping animals.

    Christine Kelly, 60, of Portsmouth Road, Ripley, was found guilty of 15 offences under the Animal Welfare Act in a trial this summer, including failing to meet the needs of 131 equines. She was also convicted of causing unnecessary suffering to horses, dogs and goats.

    More than 200 animals were removed from a Surrey farm in a huge, multi-agency operation in January 2019.

    Authorities found huge herds of ponies, many riddled with worms, living in fields with metal and broken fencing sticking up from thick mud. They found pens full of donkeys, goats and ponies, many standing on two to three feet of waste and faeces.

    Dozens of dogs, some heavily pregnant and others with puppies, were found chained and tethered on the filthy yard, while others were shut inside tiny cramped cages or makeshift kennels.

    Kelly claimed throughout the investigation that she was not responsible for all the animals found on site. She denied all of the offences, said that most of the animals did not belong to her, and that she had health issues. She was sentenced at Staines Magistrates’ Court on 25 August and given a 26-week prison sentence, suspended for 18 months, along with the life ban.

    A deprivation order, relating to 12 dogs and seven horses, was also issued, meaning the charities caring for them can now rehome them. All other living animals had previously been signed over for care by the charities or to be rehomed.

    Prosecuting on behalf of the RSPCA, Hazel Stevens told the court Kelly’s culpability was high due to the “prolonged neglect” extending for more than a year, and because the poor treatment of the animals was in a “commercial context”. She also told the court the treatment had caused a “high level of suffering”.

    “Christine Kelly claimed she only owned dogs and that she took care of six horses on behalf of her grandchildren,” she said.

    “Generally, the premises were in a bad state, the housing for the animals was inadequate and in many cases it presented a risk to the animals contained within the various enclosures.

    “There was little adequate shelter, the areas were dirty and muddy, and many animals did not have access to clean, dry resting areas or water to drink. There was insufficient grazing and dangerous fences, the property posed further risk to the animals due to loose wire that had become entangled around limbs.”

    Two horses and a goat were put down at the scene, with the rest – 201 animals – taken into charity care. Despite urgent veterinary attention, 14 horses, two dogs and a goat had to be put down. A chicken and a duck also died.

    Subsequently, 20 foals, six goat kids, an alpaca and nine puppies were born in charity care.

    After the sentencing, RSPCA special operations unit case officer Kirsty Withnall, who coordinated the rescue mission and led the investigation, said this was “one of the biggest animal welfare operations ever in the UK”.

    “A number of complaints about the farm had been filed with the RSPCA and World Horse Welfare and, following weeks of planning and gathering evidence, Surrey Police were able to execute a warrant,” she said, adding that more than 100 people spent over 12 hours assessing animals, rounding them up and moving them to vets and rescue centres.

    The joint operation involved  Guildford Borough Council, Bucks and Surrey Trading Standards, Bransby Horses, Redwings, the Horse Trust, the Donkey Sanctuary, World Horse Welfare, Dogs Trust, as well as a number of vets.

    “We had no idea what the conditions would be like until we stepped through the gates but we had to have a plan in place that would allow us to remove a large number of animals on the day, although we hoped that wouldn’t be necessary,” added Ms Withnall.

    “We had no idea what we’d find or what action would be taken until all of the animals had been assessed and we were shocked at the conditions these poor animals had been kept in.”

    After the sentencing, PC Hollie Iribar from Surrey Police said she is “grateful to the RSPCA and other partner agencies for the hard work” to bring this case to trial.

    “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,” she said.

    “I’m very glad that 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.”

    Also after the sentencing, a Buckinghamshire and Surrey Trading Standards spokesman added that the acts of animal cruelty were “devastating”.

    “But with this sentencing we can now be assured no animal will ever be harmed by those responsible again,” he said. “This is testament to the hard work and perseverance of all agencies involved, and we are grateful to them all for helping bring these individuals to justice.”

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