A FORMER veterinary nurse has been banned from keeping horses for life and given a suspended prison sentence for causing unnecessary suffering to animals.

York magistrates commended the RSPCA and police for their work in bringing Toni Veitch, 42, of Camblesforth, and her partner Graham Robson to justice.

Phil Brown, prosecuting, said the charity had had to put down several horses cared for by Veitch and had issued several animal welfare notices against her before prosecuting her over the death of a bay gelding called Flame and the condition of a second bay gelding called Fizz.

Through her barrister Rachael Landin, Veitch said she had looked after horses properly for years, the neglect of the two geldings was “out of character” and had occurred when she had been depressed and had suffered family bereavements.

But senior magistrate Ian Fithian-Franks told her: “Your culpability was high, especially as you had previously been a veterinary nurse with experience of caring for the welfare of animals.”

He said she had declared Flame was “as fit as a fiddle when clearly this was not so”. A vet had decided the gelding was in such poor condition he had to be put down and had been suffering for two to three weeks with lice, an infection and septicaemia.

Veitch, of Brigg Lane, Camblesforth, pleaded guilty to two charges of animal neglect towards Flame on land off Hirst Road, Carlton, and two charges of animal neglect towards Fizz at West Bank, Carlton.

In addition to the lifetime horse ban, she received a ten-week prison sentence, suspended for 12 months on condition she did 12 months supervision including a rehabilitiation course, and observe a nightly 11-hour curfew for ten weeks.

Robson, 41, of Church Walk, Morpeth, pleaded guilty to one animal neglect charge involving Flame and was ordered to do 80 hours’ unpaid work. Both were each ordered to pay £500 prosecution costs.

For Robson, Nicholas Darwin said he had only fed the horse once a day in the dark and had told Veitch it did not look well.

The court heard that before these incidents, the RSPCA had found maggots in the foot of another horse that was so ill it had to be put down, as did several other horses, and Veitch had had too many horses for the land she operated.

The RSPCA had issued a “number of animal welfare assessments” on other animals before the events that led to the prosecution.

Last year, magistrates convicted the couple of four more animal neglect charges each and heard that a horse called James had had to be put down when the RSPCA found problems affecting Flames and Fizz.

The convictions were later set aside because of a procedural error and the relevant charges were dropped when the couple entered guilty pleas in December.