Horse neglect woman escapes jail

A woman with a history of animal cruelty escaped jail today after five horses were found close to starvation at her Norfolk home.Karen Woods was already banned from keeping dogs when RSPCA inspectors visited her home in September last year and discovered the horses without food and adequate water, as temperatures soared to 26C.

A woman with a history of animal cruelty escaped jail today after five horses were found close to starvation at her Norfolk home.

Karen Woods was already banned from keeping dogs when RSPCA inspectors visited her home in September last year and discovered the horses without food and adequate water, as temperatures soared to 26C.

Woods, 49, of The Paddocks, Ashby St Mary, near Loddon, pleaded guilty to five charges of causing unnecessary suffering. Two other charges were dropped.

Jonathan Eales, prosecuting at Norwich Magistrates Court, said Insp Rob Melloy found seven horses kept in a barren paddock, cluttered with barbed wire and other sharp metal objects which the animals had striped of anything nutritious, including bark off the trees.

Mr Eales said the horses were given a condition score of between 0-5, the lowest end of the scale being on the point of death and the other obese. Five of the horses were between 0.5 and 1.5 and two others between 2 - 3, resulting in two charges being dropped.

“Each of the five horses suffered for a period of at least a month,” he said.

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Damien Moore, defending, told the court Woods was genuinely very remorseful for what had happened to the horses.

“As a matter of course she would feed all the animals in the stables during the summer months. The problems that transpired were because two of the horses were dominant - the two not subject to these charges - and because of their dominance they would gobble all of the food before the other horses could eat,” he said.

“She accepts that it was her responsibility to resolve the problem.”

He said Woods worked full time and conceded she did not have all the hours she would have liked to deal with the animals, which have been taken in by the International League for the Protection of Horses.

Six of the animals are doing well but one has since had to be put down because of an unrelated issue.

Woods was banned from keeping dogs in October 2005 after two animals were found caged and emaciated at her home.

District Judge Philip Browning commented that he thought there was more media interest in this case than in some of the cruelty humans do to each other, which he felt might be a result of the society we live in.

“It is important to reflect the difference between criminal neglect and deliberate cruelty,” he said, stating that the most serious cases of the latter would carry a prison sentence.

“The aggravating feature of this case is that you do have previous convictions which demonstrate you have shown to be incapable of looking after animals without neglecting them.”

He sentenced her to 12 weeks in prison for each charge to run concurrently, suspended for two years, ordered her to complete 150 hours unpaid work and to comply with a supervision order for two years.

Woods was also told to pay compensation of £3,445 and costs of £250 and was banned from keeping any animals for 10 years.

Speaking after the case, Insp Melloy said: “She escaped prison by the skin of her teeth and that was reflected in what the judge said.

“We prosecuted her in 2005 but less than a year later she reoffended and she obviously hasn't learnt how to care for animals.

“It was immediately obvious that five of the horses were unacceptably thin. It is simply not an excuse to say that two of the horses bullied the rest.”