A horse trader and breeder has been convicted of causing unnecessary suffering to horses and sheep following a successful prosecution by the Shared Regulatory Service, which represents councils in Bridgend, Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan.
Thomas Price was found guilty on 32 counts, including failing to ensure a suitable environment for animals, at Merthyr Tydfil Magistrates Court.
He was sentenced to six months in prison and banned for life from keeping any animals after the court heard that he had a history of prosecutions for mistreatment that had previously resulted in a five-year disqualification.
Price’s co-defendant, Luanne Bishop, had previously pleaded guilty to 31 of the charges and was sentenced at the same hearing to a 12-week custodial sentence, suspended for 12 months. She was also disqualified from keeping any animals for life except for a number of specified pets.
The case was brought to trial under the Animal Welfare Act by Shared Regulatory Services, the body responsible for providing environmental health, trading standards and licensing services across the Bridgend, Cardiff and Vale of Glamorgan local authority areas.
The court heard that Mr Price, of Redway Road in Bonvilston, had kept the animals in atrocious conditions at three different locations.
In a visit carried out in August 2019, animal health and welfare officers rescued a flock of sheep at Swn-y-Mor in Wick. Despite it being late summer, the sheep had unshorn fleeces and were suffering from the effects of maggots and associated wounds, which resulted in many of them having to be put down. Several carcasses were also found at the site.
Later, in January 2020, officers found that horses were being kept in appalling conditions at sites in Coity, Bonvilston and Swn-y-Mor.
The animals were found standing in deep mud with no forage and a lack of clean, fresh water. Two of the sites were strewn with hazards such as sharp metal and barbed wire, and at one site the horses were kept in overcrowded, filthy conditions with nowhere for them to lie down.
Price was charged with causing unnecessary suffering in relation to eight horses, some of which were significantly underweight, while others had long-standing wounds caused by ill-fitting rugs. In total, officers seized 240 horses across the three locations.
Dave Holland, Head of Shared Regulatory Services, said: “Mr Price has a track record of mistreating animals, and I hope this sentence sends out a message that such neglect and cruelty will not be tolerated in our local authority areas.
“The decision to hand down a prison sentence and the lifetime disqualification reflects the seriousness of these offences and the extreme suffering Mr Price was responsible for.
“Not only do Mr Price’s practices harm animals, they also cause problems for the wider communities as animals were often allowed to stray or fly-graze on land that he did not own.
“This conviction follows many months of partnership working between local authorities, South Wales Police, Redwings and the RSPCA. Having to seize and care for animals on this scale has been extremely costly, but those that keep animals should be left in no doubt that these are steps we are prepared to take to ensure animals receive the appropriate level of care.”
An RSPCA spokesperson said: “We were pleased to support Shared Regulatory Services with this complex and important equine operation, which highlights again what can be achieved working together for animal welfare.
“Many of these horses were living in wholly inappropriate conditions and we are very happy to have worked closely with SRS, the Police and Redwings to rescue them and ensure many of these animals have a second chance of happiness.”
Nic de Brauwere, Head of Welfare and Behaviour and Senior Veterinary Surgeon at Redwings, said: “I witnessed first-hand the shocking conditions and desperate lack of care at these sites, which included ponies with untreated wounds, not enough food and water and many that were severely underweight living in totally unsuitable conditions.
“I am therefore very pleased and relieved to see a successful prosecution and robust sentencing, which will prevent more horses facing neglect at the hands of these individuals. This is by no means the first case Redwings has dealt with involving horses from this owner, and the sheer amount of charity time, energy and resources that we have invested in protecting these animals over the years is difficult to put into words.
“We would like to offer our sincere thanks to the councils of the Shared Regulatory Services from Bridgend, Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan, who persisted with this crucial case throughout the past year despite challenges presented by the pandemic, and to our fellow welfare charities who have supported us every step of the way.
“Efforts are now underway to rehome the horses, who have since been brought back to full health.”