NE Scotland, Orkney & Shetland

Valerie Pritchard found guilty of horse neglect

Valerie Pritchard
Image caption Valerie Pritchard went on trial after denying neglect charges

A woman has been found guilty of neglecting more than 20 horses on an Aberdeenshire farm.

Valerie Pritchard, 65, had denied five charges under the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act.

Banff Sheriff Court heard how animal welfare officers found underweight horses infested with lice, at Mains of Green Farm, Cuminestown, in 2009.

A horse charity described the case as the worst example of horse cruelty seen in the country in more than 20 years.

World Horse Welfare field officer Douglas Howie had gone to the farm after a tip-off from a member of the public.

He said he found the corpse of a horse lying in a field, and that two more had to be put down.

The court was told that the horses had not been given enough food or adequate veterinary treatment.

The horses were removed from the farm and signed over to the World Horse Welfare charity.

'Attempted suicide'

Pritchard claimed the horses had been properly cared for and that she had been spied on and "harassed" by workers from the horse charity.

Defence witness and neighbour Sue Spain told the court that Pritchard's partner, Leslie Pritchard, 55, tried to kill himself as the animals were taken away, because the couple were being treated so badly by the charity's staff.

She said Mr Pritchard had attempted to climb a ladder with a rope, and she indicated he intended to hang himself.

Image caption World Horse Welfare had to remove several animals from the farm

Eileen Gillen, of World Horse Welfare, denied workers had harassed the couple.

She added: "This has to be one of the worst cases of equine welfare cruelty we have dealt with in Scotland in 21 years.

"During the trial I had to keep thinking - we are doing this for the horses in our care.

"They are living outside, having a good life. It's all been very much worth it."

Sheriff Peter Hammond found Valerie Pritchard guilty of five charges of horse neglect, including charges relating to a yearling, a mare and a colt.

The court heard Pritchard had previously admitted one charge of failing to identify and dispose of or process horse carcasses on the same date.

Pritchard is to due to be sentenced on 1 November.

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