Kathleen Thornton and Donald Smithson found guilty of animal cruelty

York Press: One of the horses which was found  in derelict and unclean stables at Huntington by RSPCA officers One of the horses which was found in derelict and unclean stables at Huntington by RSPCA officers

THE owners of horses found in “horrific” circumstances on land in York have been found guilty of animal cruelty and neglect.

Kathleen Thornton, 64, and her partner Donald Smithson, 71, of Garth End Cottages, Huntington, were found by RSPCA inspectors to be keeping horses in derelict stables and outbuildings littered with debris and faeces.

Horses were found to be noticeably underweight with protruding bones and overgrown hooves and some were living in dark stables with saturated bedding and in visible distress. Many were left without fresh water.

Inspectors took possession of ten of the 28 horses as they were either suffering or their needs were not being met.

Thornton – who did not attend York Magistrates’ Court due to ill health – was found guilty in her absence of 23 charges of animal cruelty and neglect and Smithson pleaded guilty to six charges, including a charge in which he admitted failing to meet the needs of the animals.

Describing the scene she found last year, Inspector Keira Benham said: “I was extremely concerned about the obvious lack of husbandry of those horses.

“The smell hit you as soon as you looked in the stables. It was horrific, it made my eyes water.

“It was dark, there was a lot of saturated dirt and faeces on the floor. The water trough was quite dirty with remnants of hay in it.”

She said two horses on the land at Whisker Farm, North Lane, Huntington, had paced a track into the floor because they were repeatedly walking in circles.

In a separate field half-a-mile from the stables, paddock and fold pens, a grey pony mare was being kept with inadequate water, with such overgrown feet she made little attempt to move, said Phil Brown, prosecuting.

When questioned at the time, Thornton said she was aware some of the horses needed attention but that she had struggled to care for them as she had been unwell with chest infections and had been reliant on Smithson and family members to look after the horses.

Smithson said he had been unable to give them the support they needed.

Speaking after the hearing, Inspector Benham said two stallions had to be destroyed after the inspection. She said the decision meant three horses remaining in the charity’s care could be rehomed.

Thornton and Smithson will be sentenced in January.

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