Furious protesters say a group of horses left to ‘starve’ in a field for almost five months have been let down by authorities.
Placard-waving animal lovers called on the RSPCA to take action and help four emaciated horses on Slayley Lane, Clowne, during a demonstration on Saturday.
Protester Emma Kelly, of Clowne, said: “I think it’s disgusting. If animals are not being treated properly you go straight to the RSPCA and expect them to help.
“I’ve been so upset by it. Having horses myself I know what they should look like but anyone can see they are not being fed and are caked in mud.”
Emma said the horses hooves were over-grown and they were also suffering from sores on their backs.
Resident Jane Brown reported the horses to the RSPCA last October and other neighbours, concerned the animals were very underweight, had been phoning the charity every month.
Jane added: “I was absolutely horrified to find protruding bones and obviously starving horses.
“The RSPCA officer rang me back to tell me he had been out with his vet and was ‘very surprised’ that the vet didn’t give him a ticket there and then to remove them but decided to give the owner a chance to put things right,” she said.
Jane, who also reported the horses to the British Horse Society, has been feeding them for the past month and fears if she had not done so they would have died.
She added: “I’m absolutely disgusted with both the RSPCA and BHS and dread the day I’m walking my dogs and find at least one dead horse in this field because it will happen.”
Owner Lorraine Hughes said had been unwell since October and had a hip operation meaning she had been unable to care for the horses.
She added a friend had been tending to the animals but was only aware of the problems when the RSPCA got in touch.
She said: “He’s not a horse person and didn’t really know what to do.
“The bad weather has also been an issue because it’s the first year in the field and it has become muddy and churned up with no grass in it.”
She added: “We have tackled it and are feeding them up. The RSPCA has seen a slight improvement in their condition and are happy with the way things are progressing.”
The authorities responses:
A spokesman for the RSPCA said they had been to the field three times with an equine vet since January.
He added: “The latest visit was earlier this week and there were signs of improvement with the horses since a previous visit.
“The RSPCA would again like to stress that we have no statutory powers to remove horses unless it is on vet’s advice.
“Following another examination of these horses the vet has not deemed it necessary to have these horses removed on welfare grounds.
“The RSPCA has been working with the owner and advice has been given by our inspector and a vet to ensure the needs of the horses are met as required by the Animal Welfare Act 2006.
“Our work is about prevention and we will always do all we can to work with pet owners for the benefit of their animals.”
A spokeswoman from the British Horse Society said they investigate all reports of this nature.
She added: “As such, when we were alerted to the situation at Clowne one of our welfare officers was quickly on site to assess the situation.
“The British Horse Society welfare officer felt there was a need for further action – in this situation the only course of action open to the British Horse Society is to refer the case to the relevant bodies so that they can take the necessary action to ensure the welfare of the horses.
“Unfortunately The British Horse Society does not have any legal powers to intervene and that was why the case is now under the guidance of the RSPCA.
“We understand it must be extremely frustrating and distressing for the people trying to support these horses but we have to work within the law.”