A British horse owner has been banned from owning horses for 10 years in a case involving the poisonous plant ragwort.
Alfie Southall, 42, of Lye, was sentenced this week in Kidderminster Magistrates’ Court after admitting four offences.
Southall was also ordered to do 250 hours of unpaid work and to pay £1000 in costs.
He admitted failing to protect his piebald mare from pain, suffering, injury and/or disease by failing to address her poor condition and by failing to explore and address the symptoms of ragwort poisoning. He also pleaded guilty to causing a poisonous or injurious substance, ragwort, to be taken by a protected animal. Southall had earlier admitted failing to ensure that his horses had access to fresh drinking water.
The court heard that the 16-year-old mare had been grazed on a field in Timber Lane, Stourport-on-Severn, along with eight other horses, when she was found last June.
The field was 50-60 percent covered in weeds, a high percentage of which was ragwort, which causes irreversible liver damage in horses and livestock.
The mare was in extremely poor condition and was staggering. A vet was called and diagnosed severe liver damage. She was euthanised in the field.
A post mortem examination later revealed ragwort to be the cause of her liver damage.
Southall was given a notice by the RSPCA advising him to clear the ragwort and to address some welfare concerns involving other horses.
This advice was later followed, but the horses had already living amongst the ragwort for some time.
“Ragwort can result in an extremely painful death for horses,” RSPCA inspector Suzi Smith said.
“This defendant said that he knew of the dangers of ragwort for horses but saw no problem in continuing to let his horses graze on it.
“If there is no other grazing horses will eat ragwort and landowners and horse owners have a legal responsibility to clear the weed from their land.”
In many cases, eating ragwort can be fatal to animals. Owners who suspect any case of plant poisoning in their pets, should seek urgent veterinary advice.
Hot, dry weather can result in a shortage of grass and lead horses and cattle to feed on whatever weeds are in their fields, including ragwort.
Towards the end of summer when pastures die out or if it is mistakenly dried along with hay, animals are also at greater risk of eating the poisonous weed.
Ragwort is registered as injurious under Britain’s Weeds Act of 1959. It is the responsibility of landowners to control the weed and an offence to fail to comply with clearance notices when they are issued.