Suffering trial begins for animal owner, 77
- Credit: PA NEWS
A court has heard the first day of evidence in the trial of a Suffolk woman accused of mistreating dogs and horses.
Marylin Read, 77, of Home Farm, Benhall, Saxmundham, denies causing unnecessary suffering to the animals, after 40 horses and 24 dogs were removed from her property last spring.
RSPCA inspector, Jason Finch responded to a call on May 20 concerning the welfare of horses on land in Kiln Lane, Benhall.
At Lowestoft Magistrates’ Court yesterday, Mr Finch told prosecutor Hazel Stevens he found five ponies roaming an area adjoining a larger paddock. He said they had access to a “ramshackle brick building”, where there was a pile of faeces and no bedding or food other that which could be found naturally.
He said the horses did not have access to piles of hay, some of which he gathered and gave to the horses, along with fresh water, before leaving a card on the gate requesting contact with the owner.
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The next day he was contacted by Jonathan Jackson, of the World Horse Welfare charity, who had also responded to a call and had found Mr Finch’s card.
Mr Finch was concerned about the condition of five ponies, describing one as “obviously underweight”.
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When Mr Jackson suggested Read was the owner, Mr Finch visited her home and asked her to accompany him to Kiln Lane. She attended and was cautioned by inspector Amy Collingsworth, after which Read signed five of the seven animals over to World Horse Welfare.
A warrant was executed on Read’s home, where another 35 horses and 24 were removed. Four horses and 20 dogs were considered to be in an acceptable enough condition to be left behind. Two horses were allowed to remain at Kiln Lane. A return visit was made on June 13, when Mr Finch said conditions appeared better.
Nigel Weller, defending Read, said Mr Finch had been wrong to declare the horses underweight, and that the animals had been behaving in a “normal” manner by the inspector’s own admission.
Fellow inspector Miss Collingsworth gave evidence of her investigation of dogs at Home Farm. She described various pens as “particularly dirty” and too small for the dogs. She said they contained dirty water, and that the dogs’ hair was generally matted. Others, she said, had ingrowing claws, displayed “nervous aggression” or had lumps requiring medical attention.
Mr Weller said Miss Collingsworth’s admission that no dog reacted with a reflex when lumps on their bodies were touched was evidence that the dogs were not in pain. He said signs of nervous aggression were the result of their living environment being disturbed.
He added that photos taken on the day were not consistent with Miss Collingsworth’s account of trampled down mud and faeces, or that dirt had been transferred to the dogs’ coats.
He said Miss Collingsworth’s notes also said nothing of any smell of faeces or urine. He asked: “In hindsight, do you think you may have over exaggerated?” She answered: “That was what I saw and felt at the time.”
The trial continues.