April 15, 2008

A court decision to return 18 shetland ponies and 11 donkeys to the Buckinghamshire farm from which they were seized has been suspended, pending appeal.

The suspension will allow time for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), supported by other animal welfare groups, to appeal the original decision to the High Court.

The decision was greeted with applause from the public gallery.

The British Horse Society (BHS) has expressed its delight at the decision to put a stay in place until the appeal is heard, which prevents the return of any of the horses rescued from Spindles Farm, Amersham.

The original hearing took place on April 4 at Oxford Magistrates Court, where Deputy District Judge Sandeep Kainth ruled that the 29 animals should be returned to Jamie Gray.

Yesterday, Judge Kainth suspended his own decision until the high court could hear the matter, meaning the animals can remain in the care of the charities that rescued them for the time being.

Counsel for the RSCPA has successfully argued that returning the animals immediately would effectively pre-empt the outcome of the appeal.

BHS Welfare Senior Executive Lee Hackett described the decision as fantastic news.

"We are delighted that Deputy Judge Kainth has done everything in his power to ensure that the animals involved remain in the best possible hands for the foreseeable future.

"It is an enormous relief that the animals will be able to remain in the care of the numerous charities who have worked so hard to rehabilitate them until the RSPCA appeal is heard. We are fully behind the RSPCA in their appeal and offer our unconditional backing and support."

The January rescue of more than 100 horses, ponies and donkeys from the premises of Jamie Gray was one of the largest equine welfare operations ever to have take place in the United Kingdom. It saw many different horse welfare organisations working together to seize and subsequently rehabilitate the animals involved.