A family of three who kept four horses in an “appalling state” at a Black Country nature reserve showed no remorse, a court heard.
The animals had been left emaciated at Fens Pool Nature Reserve in Pensnett, Dudley.
The mother, father and son were all jailed at Dudley Magistrates’ Court yesterday.
They were also handed lifetime bans on owning, keeping or being involved with horses.
Walter Hickman, aged 52, of Wallows Road, Pensnett, was sentenced to 18 weeks in prison for a total of 20 charges in relation to the horses, while his wife Amanda Hickman, 49, was jailed for 16 weeks for 16 charges. Their son Kevin Hickman, 23, of the same address, was locked up for 18 weeks for 18 offences.
All three pleaded guilty to their charges, but waited until the first day of a previously-arranged three-day trial to do so.
In sentencing them, District Judge Michael Wheeler said: “These horses were in an appalling state, with pest infestations and sores, they hadn’t been hooved properly, they were emaciated and near death. Some had been tethered, some with access to grass and water that was inadequate, and they had been checked infrequently.
“I’m told you’ve been shocked by this prosecution and you are angered and upset by the loss of your horses. What I hear from this is you only think of yourselves.
“Even when these horses were seen and seized by the authorities, you showed no willingness to sign them over. None of you has shown a shred of remorse or responsibility. Your level of denial borders on arrogance.
“This was a case of long-term neglect, and it’s a miracle these animals have survived.”
The horses had been kept at Fens Pool Nature Reserve between November 2 and December 22, in 2011.
During the hearing the court was told how the family had previously been warned by the authorities when a foal died, after being shut in a trailer on their property and becoming too weak to reach its mother to feed. Prosecuting solicitor Mr Nick Sutton said that this warning seemed to have no effect. He added: “An awful lot of agencies have been involved in this matter in distressing work, because of what these people did and did not do.”
The case ran up a total of £22,849, including stabling, care, investigations, vet and legal fees, including £4,240 for one agency, World Horse Welfare, to care for just one of the animals.
Despite this, Mr Wheeler did not impose an order for any costs. The family’s defending solicitor Stephanie Brownlees said the defendants were “shell-shocked” by their prosecution, as it has been a habit locally for horses to be tethered and this was seen as “perfectly acceptable”.
She said: “It’s clear that although levels of care fell way short of the levels required, they still did love these animals and are suffering from having to hand them over.
“Deep down they realise they’ve fallen short of their duty of care, and it was never a deliberate attempt to be cruel or to neglect in any way. It requires a great deal of money, land and effort from owners to keep a horse, and in this case the defendants appear to have bitten off more than they could chew and were ignorant to the levels of care.”
After the case, RSPCA equine inspector Jackie Hickman said she hopes these prosecutions act as a warning to others.
She said: “Horses being tethered at the location of Fens Pool has been a huge problem for this area over the years. It has been a serious issue and one of high public interest. We are satisfied that some of those who have been responsible for causing a problem in the area have now admitted their guilt.” One of the horses, a skewbald cob pony called Skippy, has now been nursed back to health. The pony had lost a lot of weight, her hooves were severely overgrown and she was weak and lethargic.
But despite her ordeal she managed to pull through and only a week after her rescue had the strength to stand for a farrier.
It took nearly a year for her to physically and mentally heal, said Inspector Hickman. She added: “Skippy has had a long road to recovery. She was really skeletal when we collected her. Now thanks to months of loving care she is a completely different pony – and really does have a skip in her step now.”