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Traders thought to own thousands of horses found guilty of causing suffering

19 June 2013


A south Wales man has been found guilty of causing unnecessary suffering and failing to meet the needs of 27 horses. The verdict came a month after his two sons admitted offences relating to the same group of equines.

Thomas Tony Price of Glan Y Mor Lane, Wick, Vale of Glamorgan was found guilty of a total of 57 offences at Cardiff Magistrates’ Court. 

His eldest son, Thomas Hope Price, of Rover Way, Cardiff pleaded guilty to 42 charges, including causing unnecessary suffering to 18 horses, at Cardiff Magistrates’ Court on 8 May. The remaining charges involved failing to meet the welfare needs of these and a further nine horses by either failing to address their weight loss, protect them from injury, pain or disease or failing to ensure they had clean and hazard-free environments with dry lying areas.

A second son, Tony John Price, also of Rover Way, Cardiff, admitted failing to meet the welfare needs of a piebald cob colt by failing to explore and address his weight loss and failing to meet the welfare needs of a piebald filly on 8 May.

Price Senior was the director of a business known as Glamorgan Horse Traders and Thomas Price was listed as secretary of the same business which deals in horses across the UK, Europe and America. 

The offences related to 27 Gypsy cob type ponies which were removed from five different locations across the Vale of Glamorgan and Bridgend between February and March 2012. 

Sixteen of the horses were chipped and further investigations identified a link to Thomas Price Senior. Twelve of the horses were found locked in a barn with no space or access to food or water. They were very underweight and suffering from various untreated conditions. 

The Prices are thought to own around 2,500 horses which are kept at various locations throughout Wales and the west of England. The RSPCA and other charities had previously advised them to keep the numbers down and manage breeding as the family could not guarantee the care arrangements of most of the animals and, since around 2011, problems developed with stray horses and ‘fly grazing’ in the Glamorgan area. 

Price Senior maintained that he had relinquished ownership of his horses to Thomas in January 2012. However, in separate civil proceedings, in which he is claiming compensation for 33 horses he produced a bill of sale which was dated after he apparently transferred ownership to his son.

RSPCA Inspector Christine McNeil said: “These horses turned out to be the most poorly and diseased horses I have come across. It is my belief that the 12 in the barn had been left there to die.

“These horses were suffering but there are hundreds of other horses across Wales and England which may not be suffering but are just being left to illegally graze and indiscriminately breed. It really is a massive problem that we struggle to deal with day after day.

“We worked closely with Bridgend County Council throughout this case and their assistance was pivotal in securing today’s result.”

The case highlights the enormous problems faced by welfare charities and the government, with irresponsible horse ownership across Wales and England. The RSPCA received 25,972 equine-related complaints in 2012. In the first five months of this year, 12,210 complaints had already been received. 

World Horse Welfare investigated 22 per cent more horse-related complaints in the first quarter of 2013, compared to 2012, and The British Horse Society (BHS) has seen welfare complaints increase by 50 per cent for the same period.

The figures are launched in the report, ‘On the Verge – in the grip of a continuing equine crisis’, which has just been released. The report reveals that the number of horses deemed at risk of needing rescue or new homes is now around 7,000 - a rise of 1,000 in just six months. 

The RSPCA, World Horse Welfare, Redwings, HorseWorld, the BHS and Blue Cross are working closely with local authorities, the Welsh Government and police to deal with the issue of irresponsible breeding and ownership in the area. The RSPCA admitted 760 equines to its care in 2012, the vast majority of which are cared for in private facilities at an average cost of £15 per animal per day as we have just 120 spaces in our own equine centres. World Horse Welfare admitted 40% more horses from January to March this year compared to the same period in 2012. 

Redwings and Blue Cross have been working at capacity, with Redwings having 1,300 horses in their care and still finding room for the extra 100 they have taken in this year. The BHS has reported a significant rise in welfare complaints. 

“The welfare charities simply do not have the resources to take in all of these poorly treated horses and pick up the pieces from indiscriminate breeding. We need tougher laws that can give authorities power to address aggressive and cruel fly grazing and make owners accountable for their animals,” said Roly Owers, chief executive of World Horse Welfare.

What the Government can do:

  • Amend the current Animals Act to give land owners and local authorities more scope to act quickly to address fly grazing. Wales is currently undertaking a consultation on ways to tackle fly grazing
  • Introduce criminal legislation to penalise aggressive fly grazers and act as a deterrent
  • As part of the review of the current horse passport laws, require mandatory microchipping of all horses to better link them to owners to improve accountability. 
  • Enforce these laws robustly in problem areas, and move the burden of proof of ownership from the authorities to the owner 
  • Increased intelligence-led enforcement of horse imports and exports 
  • Encourage responsible breeding through guidance and the facts on the unprofitability of the lower end of the horse market, as well as advice on when not to breed from unhealthy horses.

What the public can do to help:

  • The horse-owning public can respond to this crisis and play an important part in rehoming horses and ponies, or by supporting horse welfare charities 
  • If you are a horse owner or know one who needs help, please contact the BHS's Welfare team or one of the other horse welfare charities for advice before the situation escalates into a welfare problem.

Sentencing has been adjourned for pre-sentence reports.

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