A couple has been banned for keeping animals for life after RSPCA inspectors found they had been keeping dozens of horses in ‘horrendous conditions.’

Some had to be dug out of mud and four-foot of muck and excrement at the stables in Hetton-le-Hole, Tyne and Wear.

The animals had been left without hay or water and were in poor physical condition with matted coats and overgrown hooves.

Officers found a total of 40 horses at the site which were not being properly cared for by Gordon Hamilton Metcalf, 59, and 48-year-old Denise Ann Clark.

As a result the pair, both of Hetton-le-Hole, were each banned from keeping animals for life – a ban which cannot be contested for 10 years.

In addition to a lifetime disqualification from keeping all animals Metcalf was also sentenced to 18-weeks in jail suspended for 12 months and ordered to pay £750 in costs.

Clark was ordered to pay a £180 fine and £750 in costs.

At their trial, held at Peterlee Magistrates’ Court in September, the court heard details of the conditions RSPCA Inspectors Terri-Ann Fannon and Gemma Lynch and World Horse Welfare Field Officer Seema Ritson found the horses in.

Inspector Fannon said: ‘The conditions in the paddock were horrendous.

‘There was no dry standing area, the mud was above my knees when I stood in it and it was almost impossible to manoeuvre.’

She said she found four Shetland ponies in the ‘worst conditions she had ever seen’.

Ms Fannon went on: ‘The horses stood on old hay, muck and faeces up to my shoulders (approximately 4 feet high). There was no access in or out of the stable.

‘The cobs were unable to lift their heads up as the muck was so high their heads were touching the roof of the stable.

‘They had no food or water. Several of my colleagues spent several hours digging out the horses.’

Inspectors had to climb over rumble to get to horses, prise open a stable door which had been nailed shut and found lots of the horses without hay or water.

The court heard how the couple had previously been told they could not keep horses at the site during the winter months to the extremely muddy conditions.

But they had not made any improvements to the stables apart from a makeshift area of uneven cobble bricks which the horses could not stand on.

All of the horses were examined by a vet before being taken in the care of the RSPCA’s care.

In total, 12 horses were caused to suffer by the pair’s failure to provide farrier treatment for their overgrown hooves.

Ten were also caused to suffer as a result of Metcalf and Clark failing to provide adequate food and water.

The pair were sentenced at Newton Aycliffe Magistrates’ Court on October 7.

Following the sentencing hearing, Insp Fannon said the case was the ‘worst horse case’ she had been involved with.

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