A husband and wife from Kidwelly have been given suspended prison sentences, after failing to meet the needs of dozens of ponies, with three discovered in a collapsed, dilapidated barn – and desperate to escape.
Stan Strelley, 48, and Heather Strelley, 48, both of Carway, Kidwelly, both admitted four Animal Welfare Act offences at Llanelli Magistrates Court yesterday (31 January).
Both were banned from keeping ponies and horses for five years – and cannot appeal this ban for a period of one-year.
Mr Strelley was also imprisoned for 16 weeks, suspended for one year; while Ms Strelley was imprisoned for 12 weeks, suspended for 12 months. Mr Strelley must also do 180 hours of unpaid community work, and 25 rehabilitation activity requirement days; while Mrs Strelley must do 25 rehabilitation activity requirement days. Each individual was told to pay £300 in costs and a £115 victim surcharge.
Shocking video footage shows the conditions some of the ponies were being kept in.
In total, the pair failed to meet the needs of 35 ponies, and caused a number of the animals to suffer.
RSPCA Cymru were initially contacted to rescue ponies trapped at the Kidwelly site – near Llanelli; but it soon became obvious – on a visit in June 2018 – that the property was badly dilapidated, and that ponies were being kept in a very unsuitable environment.
In one paddock, a number of ponies were left in a poor condition, with overgrown hooves, and cuts and scrapes to their bodies. The animals were surrounded by dangerous hazards – including bricks, metal, glass, and old machinery.
Banging noises could be heard at the site – and RSPCA inspector Keith Hogben soon found a collapsed shed, with ponies trying to push their way through fallen metal roofing sheets. Three distressed ponies inside did not have room to stand up without hitting themselves on the roof.
Conditions at the shed were so bad that the building was bursting at the seams with soiled faeces – and there was no exit point for the ponies; but – again – hazards, including a smouldering bonfire, piping and wood with nails protruding through surrounded the animals.
Shockingly, the bones of a deceased pony were found on a muck heap. A further 20 ponies were found in a separate building – almost all of which were living in wholly unsuitable conditions. Part of the building’s roof was collapsing, and the ponies were living on many feet of faeces.
In all, three ponies were found to be underweight, six were lame, and a further three were trapped in a collapsed shed. An investigating RSPCA inspector has said the case amounted to “shocking neglect of a large number of animals”.
It was confirmed in court that both individuals were showing ponies – and, indeed, some were found at the site groomed and in far better condition that other ponies. The RSPCA have said there was a clear “priorities problem” – with some given far better treatment than others, some of whom were left to suffer.
The judge labelled the overall conditions at the site “disgraceful” and “disgusting”. The owners failed to meet the needs of all 35 ponies, as they failed to provide a hygienic, suitable environment which was free from dangerous hazards.
Twenty-two of the ponies were signed into the care of the RSPCA – with the other 13 remaining at the property, but moved away from the poor environment in which they had been forced to live. The pair now have 28 days to make arrangements for the ponies still in their care.
RSPCA inspector Keith Hogben said: “The conditions at this Kidwelly property were absolutely appalling, and had a serious impact on some 35 equines.
“This complex investigation found shocking neglect of a large number of animals – with ponies kept in hugely inappropriate conditions; and many left to suffer with serious weight loss or lameness.
“We’re very grateful to the local vets, farrier, World Horse Welfare, the local police, and the RSPCA’s equine rehoming officers, who all supported our efforts here.
“I will never forget the sound of hearing a pony trying to bang his way out of a collapsed shed. It was an horrific discovery – with three ponies trapped beneath fallen metal roofing sheets, in conditions so horrendous I was left cold. They were desperate to get out, but had no way out before we arrived.
“Remarkably, both individuals were showing ponies – and continued to do so during our investigations. There was a clear priorities problem – with some animals groomed and treated far better; while others were left in appalling conditions. It was one rule for some – and another rule for the others.
“It is so hard to understand how anyone lets conditions get so bad for their animals. RSPCA Cymru was left with no choice but to pursue legal action; to ensure justice for these 35 ponies who were so badly let down.” RSPCA Chief Inspector Romain DeKerckhove added: “We know most people in South West Wales treat their animals properly – but sadly, this wasn’t the case in this major and serious case in Kidwelly. “Inspector Hogben deserves immense credit for dealing with this case so professionally, and rescuing horses left in such unimaginably poor, dangerous and illegal conditions. “Thankfully, thanks to Inspector Hogben’s intervention, a lot of mistreated horses will now get a second chance of happiness. “He – like all our officers in South West Wales and beyond – will not rest while animals are being subjected to such unfair treatment.”