Two horse owners, who pleaded guilty mid-June (19/6/2014) to seven charges relating to the neglect of a group of horses, and cattle, were sentenced at Cannock Magistrates Court in Staffordshire today.
Agricultural contractor and owner of both the land on which the neglected animals were kept and two of the horses relating to this case, Mr Rob Shufflebotham, was ordered to pay costs of £2060 which he will pay at the rate of £100 per month. He was also given a 12 month community order where he will have to work for 150 unpaid hours. [Image, above, shows Amara as found]
Mr Shaun Edgecox, who owned the remainder of horses (3) and claimed to be the owner of all of the cattle, was sentenced to a slightly harsher sentence of 240 hours of unpaid work over 12 months. He was also ordered to pay costs of £2540 which he will pay at the rate of £70 per month.
The charges in court related to offences under the Animal Welfare Act due to failing to meet the needs of the group of horses in both owners’ care, as well as unsuitable conditions for the cattle. Mr Shufflebotham of Firmstone place, in Leek, Staffordshire, was also charged with a passport offence for selling on a stallion without a passport.
Mr Edgecox of Leek Road, in Endon, Staffordshire, did not own the land on which the animals were kept but used the land to graze his animals.
The investigation into this case began in Mid-April 2013 when one of World Horse Welfare’s 16 Field Officers, Rachel Andrews, received a call from Staffordshire County Council who was leading on the case, about a group of horses and cattle with serious welfare issues.
Rachel was immediately concerned about the conditions that the horses were being kept in, as well as the physical health of the horses, especially because two were heavily pregnant and one was very young.
She explains the scene: “These horses were being kept in a very large steel framed barn along with a herd of cows. The conditions under foot were extremely dirty and covered in cattle and horse manure. The ventilation was very poor and there was little light. There was also a lot of dangerous farm equipment around and a number of hazards so it was completely unsuitable for all of the animals, but predominantly for those due to give birth. Whilst there was grazing outside it was not clear how much turn-out the horses were getting, but judging by their body condition they were not being fed a suitable diet during the winter months, especially the pregnant mares who were very underweight for horses who were in foal.”
The horses had access to a yard that was also very dirty and littered with hazards. One of the horses, Amara, had severe rainscald as well as being very underweight.[Image, left, shows Amara's rainscald]
Two coloured pregnant mares, Hill Top Tilly and Dolly May, as well as a very young and underweight pony called Erin were immediately signed over to Staffordshire County Council, and then to World Horse Welfare. Both mares were taken to the charity’s nearest rescue and rehoming centre, Penny Farm in Blackpool.
Rachel remained extremely concerned about Amara, and Artic Splash of Inspiration (Splash), who were both thankfully signed over to the charity soon afterwards.
Rachel continues: “This is the best possible result we could hope for when finding such sick horses as it means that we can begin their rehabilitation instantly.”
Very shortly after arriving at the rescue centre both coloured mares gave birth to healthy foals who were given a much better chance in life having been born in a safe and loving environment from the outset. Splash has completed her rehabilitation and is now ready to be rehomed as a companion.
Of the case results, Rachel says: “This case has highlighted the seriousness of the offence to both owners and the outside world; it was encouraging to see both parties showing remorse today with Edgecox saying that he no longer had any desire to own horses or cattle in the future.
“It is highly unlikely that either defendant will get themselves in this situation again without asking for help first. Mr Shufflebotham was struggling due to personal circumstances and everything had got on top of him. He left it too long in-between visits to the farm, not realising the grave importance of regular check-ups on his animals, and the necessity of rectifying health concerns in animals sooner rather than later. Should he have made more frequent visits and paid more attention to the animals in question, that goes for Mr Edgecox too, then the animals would not have suffered as much as they did.
“The positive side to this is that both men recognised that they were unable to care adequately for large numbers of animals at that time and immediately signed their horses over to Staffordshire County Council who subsequently signed the group over to World Horse Welfare.”
Rachel says that the difference in the horses now that they have been in the care of Word Horse Welfare is amazing. [Image, right, shows Amara after rehabilitation]
From ropey and emaciated to healthy and content: “Amara for example, is a real stunner now. When I visited the farm recently I walked straight past her in the field and didn’t recognise her. She’s a beautiful horse that deserves a happy future, all of them do.”
Mr Shufflebotham still has one mare and her foal in his care from the group, which Staffordshire County Council has been closely monitoring. Staffordshire County Council is satisfied that the owner can look after this limited number adequately.