NE Scotland, Orkney & Shetland

Community service for Aberdeenshire horse abuse woman

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Media captionValerie Pritchard is found guilty of neglecting horses on her Aberdeenshire farm and is banned from keeping animals for life

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

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.

Pritchard was given 200 hours of community service and banned from keeping animals for life.

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 two more needed 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 charity.

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

Sheriff Peter Hammond found 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.

Sheriff Peter Hammond told Pritchard she remained in denial and that she still refused to accept she had done anything wrong.

He said: "The clear impression I have is you were unable to look after these horses.

"You are no longer to be considered a fit and proper person to look after animals."

The sheriff ordered that dogs kept at Pritchard's property would also have to be removed.

Image caption World Horse Welfare said it was a serious case of cruelty

Field officer Mr Howie added after the sentencing: "We are extremely pleased with the result as Ms Pritchard kept her horses in such dreadful conditions.

"The ban imposed means that she will never be able to own horses again, therefore it is reassuring to know that she won't be able to inflict such abuse again.

"Some have already been rehomed into loving new homes and we hope that all of them will go on to lead happy new lives."

The Scottish SPCA said it launched an investigation after World Horse Welfare visited the farm and found 25 horses in extremely poor condition and the carcasses of a further 15 horses, many piled in a barn.

Chf Supt Mike Flynn from the charity said: "This was a sickening case of neglect, with many of the horses found either dead or dying.

"Pritchard allowed this situation to arise through extremely poor herd management with mares and stallions mixed together and many young foals at foot and in an emaciated condition.

"Her horses had experienced so little human contact that they had become wild and were very difficult to handle or catch."

He added: "A life ban is the ultimate sanction against animal cruelty and entirely fitting in this case."

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