Horse breeder found guilty of animal neglect

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A Ribble Valley horse breeder has been found guilty of four charges of animal neglect.

Rachelle Peel was acquitted of a further 21 charges relating to Arab horses and dogs kept at her premises in Slaidburn and Tosside.

But the district judge who heard the trial said he accepted much of the evidence from prosecution witnesses about the conditions in which all the animals were found.

Peel, 56, formerly of Brookhouse Green Farm, Dale Head, Slaidburn, but now living in a caravan in Tosside, had pleaded not guilty to all charges, but was convicted of four. She was fined a total of £2,200 and ordered to pay £8,000 costs and £80 victim surcharge.

The court was initially told of dead horses being found in fields where other horses were grazing and also in barns alongside live horses.

District Judge James Clarke said the charges he had convicted Peel of related to medium term neglect.

“I recognise the fact that many of the animals were left in poor conditions for periods of time and their basic maintenance was not looked after,” said Judge Clarke. He said he was particularly concerned about the failure to attend properly to a pregnant mare called Mouse.

He said while the horses were not kept specifically for her livelihood they were more than pets.

“They were being kept in large numbers as part of a breeding programme and for use in competition,” said Judge Clarke. “People who keep animals in a professional capacity should be well aware of the standards required by good practice and ensure appropriate and adequate provision is made for the animals’ maintenance and care.”

Judge Clarke said he recognised Mrs Peel was of previous good character and had an unblemished record of owning and caring for horses. He said the deterioration in the standards of care were triggered by the onset of serious illness for her husband Stephen Peel. He said he also recognised the significant impact the discoveries of the horses in March 2013 had had on her life.

“I do not underestimate the impact of coming to terms with the life changing illness of your husband, the loss of the tenancy at Brookhouse Green Farm and the fact that a number of your horses perished or suffered to varying degrees,” he said. “A large number of the horses surrendered have been destroyed. You have lost a great deal and your life has changed irrevocably. You have, without doubt, suffered as a result of this journey.”

Judge Clarke said that throughout the lengthy trial Peel had demonstrated a persistent unwillingness to accept any shortcomings on her part.

“You saw yourself very much the victim and you laid blame at a series of others in how they dealt with you and your family and with how they treated the horses. There was in some instances an obstinate refusal to accept even the most compelling evidence of neglect,” said Judge Clarke.

He recognised that Peel had suffered significantly as a result of the events of March 2013, the ongoing investigation and uncertainty and the changes in her personal life.

“However, those who undertake the care of animals in a professional role have significant responsibilities to those animals and I would be failing in my public duty if the sentences I passed failed to reflect the seriousness of the situation,” he said.