AN elderly couple have been banned from keeping horses for ten years after a court ruled they had neglected 41 ponies.
George and Maureen Millington, aged 79 and 78, were flagged up as a cause for concern by the RSPCA after a tip-off from a member of the public.
Welsh ponies, Shetland ponies and cross-breeds were found on a thin strip of land at the couple’s property in Ossett in horrifying conditions, a court heard.
Ponies, ranging from the ages of one to 35, had ulcerated gums, overgrown hooves and teeth, and were extremely underweight. Four ponies had overgrown hooves while on two others hooves had been cut so short it caused suffering.
Some of the stables were found to be soiled with faeces and urine and there was no water in 22 out of 30 stables.
District Judge Adrian Lower ruled the Millingtons were both guilty of three charges of causing unnecessary suffering to a protected animal and four charges of breaching a duty of care.
Alexis Kent, the veterinary surgeon who carried out the initial clinical examination, said: “If they were allowed to continue to lose weight they would eventually waste away and die.”
Describing one pony, the vet said: “This pony was in a very thin condition.
“It had very long toes that were curling upwards. This horse was suffering.”
RSPCA Inspector Gemma Fowler visited the couple’s property in Ossett, near Wakefield, in January last year where she encountered Mr Millington who was determined to show the inspector certain parts of the premises.
Prosecuting at Wakefield Magistrates’ Court during a three-day trial, Iain O’Donnell explained how Mr Millington became aggressive before shouting and shoving Inspector Fowler around.
The court heard there were 30 stables on the property that were in a filthy condition.
On a follow-up visit, the decision was made by the veterinary surgeon that all of the animals should be removed – resulting in the police seizing all 41 ponies.
Mr O’Donnell added: “Thirty stables were found at the property. They realised pretty quickly that the ponies were being kept in pretty bad conditions. Arrangements were made for transportation.
“The vet felt these animals were suffering or were likely to suffer. The conditions there were being kept in were manifestly unsuitable.”
Maureen Millington, who described the ponies as “my family,” said she gave each pony half-a-bucket of carrots and an apple every day. She said the stables hadn’t been cleaned for a couple of days before the RSPCA visit because of bad weather.
Mr Millington’s lawyer Paul Blanchard said: “Mr and Mrs Millington appear to have, in the past, done a sterling job in terms of the breeding, maintenance and keep of their animals.”
Emily Price, Mrs Millington’s lawyer, said: “It is clear that Mr and Mrs Millington haven’t had any ill intention towards these horses.”
However, RSPCA Inspector Carol Neale told the court hearing: “Some of the ponies I don’t think have ever been touched.”
The elderly couple were found guilty of seven offences, four relating to the neglect of the ponies and three of ausing unnecessary suffering.
Mr Millington was fined £600 for failing to attend to their hooves and teeth and failing to call a vet. He was also ordered to pay a £20 victim surcharge.
His wife was fined £450 with a £20 surcharge.
The pair were also disqualified from keeping horses for the next ten years.
Mr Lower said: “Mr and Mrs Millington had chosen to have 41 ponies and all that had come with that. Certainly to look after as many as 41 ponies is a daunting task.
“These 41 ponies had become too great a burden.”
The couple were deprived of the ownership of the remaining 40 ponies that are still alive and in the care of the RSPCA.
Ms Neale said afterwards: “This was the largest number of horses I’ve dealt with, living in the most squalid conditions, in my 23 years as an RSPCA inspector.
“All but one of them, which sadly didn’t make it, have made a fantastic recovery with the right care and attention, even those in the very worst conditions.
“The Millingtons had far too many horses to look after properly, caring for one horse is a big job let alone 41.”