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Couple found guilty of cruelty to horses
AN equine author and her husband have been found guilty of causing unnecessary suffering to four of their 11 horses.
Lesley Skipper, 61, and her husband, Brian, 56, each denied four counts of causing unnecessary suffering to their horses and two charges of failing to ensure the animals’ welfare.
Following an inspection by the RSPCA on June 14 last year, two of the animals at the couple’s stables on Sadberge Lane, in Middleton St George, near Darlington, were found to be suffering from chronic laminitis, a foot disease which causes lameness and walking problems, while another had serious dental problems.
The laminitis in the hooves of one of the horses, an Arab stallion named Nivalis, which had belonged to the couple since it was five months old, was so severe it was euthanised on site.
Two of the animals were put down a few weeks later, while another remains in RSPCA care.
During the trial, Darlington Magistrates’ Court heard the couple allowed the horses to sleep on more than a foot-anda- half of dirty bedding and failed to book them in for veterinary appointments.
Giving evidence during the trial, Mr Skipper, of Durham Road, Stockton, said temperatures of -20C stopped him from mucking out the block.
He said he and his wife had planned to remove the bedding with a mechanical digger when the weather improved.
Mr Skipper, who suffers from bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder, said: “We had a routine of mucking out but, because of the severe weather, I had to use very deep litter.”
Mrs Skipper, who has written a number of books on equine care and behaviour, also told the court they kept the deep bedding as the pair both had flu.
She said: “It would have been physically impossible to dig the stables out by hand.
We would have to get a digger in to do it.”
Finding the couple guilty on all counts, chairman of the bench, Les Abbott, said there was clear evidence the horses were suffering, and that a reasonable horse owner would have known they were suffering.
He added Mr and Mrs Skippers’ evidence was “vague and misleading”.
The case was adjourned to allow magistrates and the probation service to view psychiatric reports for both defendants, and the pair will appear on October 4 to be sentenced.
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