A woman has been banned from keeping horses for five years after SSPCA inspectors discovered a pony “severely underweight” and suffering from lice and redworms.
Gail Vines had been juggling a divorce, childcare and work, so had only been checking on her field of nine horses on the way home, shining a torch to check they were all there.
The 64-year-old failed to notice pony Eve had become unwell and underweight due to redworms causing digestive issues and diarrhoea.
The animal was also suffering from skin lesions and lice when SSPCA inspectors found her and took her away to be treated.
And now Vines has been banned from keeping horses for five years after admitting causing Eve unnecessary suffering in court.
‘She was so thin and weak’
Fiscal depute Victoria Kerr told Aberdeen Sheriff Court: “The SSPCA received a complaint of concern regarding horses on the accused’s premises and attended at approximately 12.30pm on February 28 2020.
“They saw a grey pony standing on its own beside a hay feeder in a manner that gave immediate concern.”
Inspectors noted the pony’s “emaciated body condition” and that it “looked poorly, with its head hanging low”.
The inspectors agreed the animal “required to be removed” from the farm to secure its welfare “as she was so thin and weak”.
It was also noted the pony was suffering from diarrhoea and had been for some time.
When inspected, there was “clear evidence she was emaciated”.
‘The owner should have been aware of this’
Inspectors concluded the pony had “undoubtedly suffered”.
A vet then arrived and it was decided the horse needed to be taken to an SSPCA facility for its own welfare.
Ms Kerr said: “The vet was of the opinion the horse had been caused unnecessary suffering by the owner’s failure to secure vet treatment for her condition.
“She was severely underweight and the owner should have been aware of this and sought veterinary advice.”
Ms Kerr said the pony, along with eight others, remain in the care of the SSPCA, and asked the court to consider an order banning Vines from owning horses for at least 10 years.
Vines pled guilty to causing the pony unnecessary suffering by omission over the course of February last year.
She failed to provide adequate care and treatment, including nutrition, leading to the pony becoming emaciated and suffering from poor body condition, chronic diarrhoea, skin lesions and an infestation of lice.
Defence agent Gregor Kelly said: “Ms Vines accepts this was an act of omission.
She maintains she would never knowingly maltreat an animal.”
Vines was ‘horrified’ to realise pony’s condition
He said she “loves horses”, had looked after them for 50 years, has no previous convictions and “feels great shame and grave concern for the horse which suffered”.
Mr Kelly said Vines had gone through a “toxic divorce” which led to financial difficulties, and had been “struggling greatly” dealing with that while caring for her son and also working.
He said she would look in on the horses on her way home from work, shining a torch to make sure all nine were still there, but did not notice Eve was unwell.
The solicitor explained Eve had been underweight due to digestive issues related to the redworms, but that food has been provided.
He said: “She was horrified to realise the diagnosis of redworms and how bad this pony was, but certainly she was making provisions the best she could.”
‘I’m prepared to treat this as an aberration’
Mr Kelly said Vines had not sought to get the horses back from the SSPCA, and would not look to keep any more until she is in a better, more stable position.
He described the incident as a “blip and not a continuing course of conduct”.
Sheriff Philip Mann said: “These cases are always difficult to deal with. There’s a great public interest, clearly, in the protection of animals and the court has to be seen to be doing what is necessary to protect animals from unnecessary suffering.
“The primary concern of the court is that particular issue.
“Given the glowing references you have, I’m prepared to treat this as an aberration and something that is out of character.”
He banned Vines, of Kinnear Square, Laurencekirk, from keeping horses for five years, and granted a deprivation order in respect of Eve.
The sheriff otherwise admonished Vines, meaning she faces no further punishment.
Vines declined to comment on the incident as she left court.