A WOMAN has denied animal cruelty charges after a number of horses were found emaciated in a barn in Stoke Prior, last year.
Defendant Annette Nally, 49, appeared at Redditch Magistrates’ Court for the start of her trial today, where she pleaded not guilty to four charges of causing unnecessary suffering to horses.
A dead horse was discovered at the Astwood Lane Barn, which Nally rented, along with 16 others in poor health – all without any food or water and standing in their own faeces.
A number of them were later put to sleep on the local vet’s recommendation.
Prosecuting, barrister Hazel Stevens said: “When the horses were discovered some of them were wearing heavy rugs on their backs and were severely dehydrated.
“They were all starving.”
Nearby farmer Mr Tolley found the horses on July 14 last year after some of them had escaped onto his land, alerting him to the situation.
Nally was said to be in Plymouth at the time, to pick up a horse which was in need of re-homing.
She claims she was bringing the horse back to one of the three sites which she used to ‘rehabilitate’ and ‘foster’ the animals.
As well as the Astwood Lane site, Nally also rented two pieces of land with stables in Solihull, where she lives.
In the past she had worked closely with the RSPCA to rescue abused horses and was recognised by the charity as being ‘trustworthy’ and ‘knowledgeable’ in the industry.
Nally allegedly used her close link with the RSPCA to attain more horses.
During day one of the trial a video, taken on July 14, 2018 by a member of the public, was played in the court.
It showed more than a dozen horses in thin and poor condition, with their rib cages on show.
Barrister Ms Stevens said: “After giving the horses water and hay, Mr Tolley contacted the land owner who had leased the site to Miss Nally in 2017.”
Andrew Herbert, who has owned the land for the last 25 years, was the first witness to be called to the stand.
He said: “When I arrived at the site I found the stop cock had been turned off and therefore wasn’t feeding any water to the barns or stables.
“When I leased the site to Miss Nally it was under the condition that she maintained the land on her own.
“I did pay the water bill myself because it’s shared with the owner of the farm next to me.
“He pays me back whatever he’s used each month.
“Everything was good at the start, Miss Nally paid two months rent up front.
“But in March last year she had stopped paying me altogether.
“I tried to contact her several times over this issue but I was unable to get in touch with her.
“She just stopped responding.”
Defence solicitor Ms Whitehead said: “My client did call you on several occasions around the same time you were trying to contact her.
“She told you she was going to terminate her contract with you, due to you not fixing the leaks in the barn and the damaged fence around the site.”
Mr Herbert denied any such conversations taking place.
Also called to the witness stand was RSPCA inspector Jack Alderson, whose role in the charity is to investigate complaints of animal cruelty.
He was called to the site on July 14 last year, where he assessed the conditions of the horses, took several photos and also called out the vets.
“I called Miss Nally and asked her to come back to the site,” he said.
“She turned up about five hours later as she had to drive back from Plymouth.
“It was hard to make sense of anything she was saying when she arrived because she was talking too quickly and going off on a tangent.
“Initially I felt quite sympathetic towards her, as she seemed quite worried.
“I was overwhelmed with the situation and asked members of the public, who were on the site, to leave so I could do my job properly.
“They were abusing me and were quite anti-RSPCA, claiming we had something to do with this or that we weren’t doing enough.”
Nally allegedly told RSPCA chief inspector Sarah Chambers, who attended the site the next day (July 15), that the barn was so bare because she was planning to move the horses to one of her Solihull locations.
The horses which were still alive at the Astwood Lane site were removed by the RSPCA to be cared for.
Ms Chambers said: “When we visited the Solihull barns, we found another three horses which were later put down at Miss Nally’s and a vet’s request.
“Later I told Miss Nally that she was under investigation and that the police would be in contact.”
The trial, which is expected to run for more than a week, will resume tomorrow at 10am.