Kidwelly couple spared jail despite allowing one of their ponies to live in 'uncontrollable pain'

Maia was found to be lame on all four legs and in "uncontrollable pain". Credit: RSPCA

A husband and wife have been spared jail, despite allowing one of their ponies to live in "uncontrollable pain".

Stanley Strelley and wife Heather of Bron Gwendraeth, Kidwelly, have been banned from keeping animals and given suspended jail terms - after admitting causing a pony to suffer and breaching a previous disqualification order.

The pair pleaded guilty to two animal welfare offences and breaching a five-year disqualification order on keeping equines when they appeared before Llanelli magistrates last month.

When RSCPA inspectors visited their farm, the Strelleys denied that the ponies belonged to them and instead gave the name of a woman with two different surnames who they claimed was the owner.

During an RSPCA visit, the husband and wife denied owning the ponies. Credit: RSPCA

Magistrates heard that RSPCA inspector Keith Hogben, along with World Horse Welfare field officer Tony Evans, visited the couple at a farm in Kidwelly on May 28 last year, following reports about a lame pony at the location and a breach of ban offence.

Thirteen Section A Welsh ponies were discovered at the property, along with a further six in a field outside. The majority of those stabled were exhibiting stress-induced behaviours and a bay mare called Maia - who was reluctant to move - was found to be suffering from untreated laminitis.

Heather Strelley was repeatedly asked for the owner’s contact number, but when it was eventually provided, there was no reply. When the alleged owner eventually spoke to inspector Hogben later that day, she told him that Maia belonged to her and had seen a vet. However, the two veterinary practices whose names were given to the inspector said they had never heard of the pony.

The majority of the ponies stabled were exhibiting "stress-induced behaviours". Credit: RSPCA

A vet who attended the farm for the RSPCA later that day confirmed that Maia was lame on all four legs. She said the mare’s presentation was indicative of laminitis and it was evident she was in “uncontrollable pain”, had been suffering unnecessarily for six to eight weeks and was unlikely to have been seen by a vet or a farrier during that time.

Maia was removed from the property later that day by the police and placed in the charity’s care.

In evidence to the court, the vet said: “In this case, I believe much earlier intervention with a veterinarian and a farrier would have prevented ongoing suffering of this mare. The appearance of the mare’s hooves externally show that she was overdue trimming and this, along with other factors such as breed, stress, diet and increased weight, would have predisposed her to laminitis.

"In my opinion the barn environment was stressful as the majority of the ponies were exhibiting stress-induced behaviours such as cribbing, kicking, snorting and biting. These ponies, including the laminitic mare, were fed ad lib haylage which, as a source of high starch, is inappropriate for laminitic prone breeds and a pony currently suffering from the condition."

A vet told the court the ponies were the ponies were cribbing, kicking, snorting and biting. Credit: RSPCA

On February 10, Llanelli Magistrates Court imposed a further five-year ban on the couple after the RSPCA investigation.

Mrs Strelley was also given a 12 and eight-week prison sentence to run concurrently - suspended for two years - for breaching the disqualification order and causing unnecessary suffering respectively. Her husband was given a 12-week prison sentence - suspended for 18 months - for breaching his ban.

Magistrates were told how a different woman - whose name was given to inspector Hogben - was also not the ponies’ owner. The court heard that the woman said Heather Strelley had instead been sending her messages asking her to say they were hers and had offered her money to do so.

Mr and Mrs Strelley continued to deny ownership of all the ponies until June 8 when, via a letter from the solicitor, they admitted they were.

'A total disregard for the law'

Speaking after the case, inspector Hogben said: "Mr and Mrs Strelley have shown a total disregard for the law and the sentence that was handed out to them when they appeared in court for previous animal welfare offences. Unfortunately another pony has now suffered unnecessarily due to Mrs Strelley’s failure to treat a hoof problem that she was fully aware of.

"We are very pleased that Maia made a full recovery after receiving excellent veterinary treatment and rehabilitation by equine professionals.

"We are grateful to our friends at World Horse Welfare - in particular field officer Tony Evans - for their support in this case, which is another example of what we can achieve together for animal welfare."

Maia has since been rehomed and the remaining ponies now belong to someone else too.

In addition to their suspended prison sentences, Mr and Mrs Strelley were both banned from keeping equines for five years and each ordered to pay costs of £1,000 and a victim surcharge of £128. Mr Strelley was given 25 RARs (rehabilitation activity requirements) and told to carry out 200 hours unpaid work. Mrs Strelley was given 25 RAR days and placed under a 7pm to 7am curfew for four months.