Menu Close


A Leicestershire man who left a severely underweight horse to suffer for a period of at least four months has been banned from keeping all animals for life.

Russell Whitehead, of Top Street, Appleby Magna, appeared before Leicester Magistrates’ Court last Wednesday (May 18), where he pleaded guilty to causing unnecessary suffering to a horse called Paris, who was discovered in a severely emaciated state.

Picture: RSPCA

He failed to adequately explore and address the cause of her poor condition and failing to meet her welfare needs by failing to protect her from pain, suffering, injury and/or disease as a consequence of a failure to provide adequate hoof care.

He was ordered to carry out an 18 month community order of 300 hours of unpaid work and disqualified from keeping all animals for life and pay £200 court costs and a £95 victim surcharge.

The RSPCA was alerted to the horse after photographs of Paris in poor condition had been posted on social media.

RSPCA Inspector Rebecca-Jane Harlock attended the location on February 19 and was met with the police – a number of the members of the public were also at the location.

The defendant approached the officer and explained he was responsible for the horse Paris, a thoroughbred mare which he had been gifted.

He had informed the owner of Paris – who then also attended the location to remove the horse from his care. The owner transported the horse to an equine clinic where vets would examine her and provide the necessary care.

Inspector Harlock said: “I went over to Paris  and even with her rug on I could see her hip bones and that she had no muscle on her neck. With help from the police officers we moved her away from the other two ponies and removed her rug. I could see she was extremely underweight, she had no muscle on her body, all her ribs and hip bones were visible.

A report by an expert vet who examined Paris concluded that: “ There was no evidence that the horse was emaciated due to any other cause than inadequate consumption of nutrition. The chronic lack of nutrition led to catabolism of body fat and muscle.

Picture: RSPCA

“The neglect of preventative routine health care was evident in all aspects; foot trimming, dental care and basic grooming. The time period of suffering to get into this condition would be at least four months, more likely six months or more. The teeth appeared not to have been rasped for at least 12 months.”

Tragically although Paris had started to show signs of improvement she had to be put to sleep after she developed colic a few days later – which within a few hours had become unmanageable with pain relief.

A post mortem confirmed the surgical colic diagnosis.

Inspector Harlock added: “Poor Paris was in such a poor state and all this could have been avoided had she just been given the care she deserved or the defendant had asked for help from the owner – who we are grateful for all their support in helping Paris during her final days.”

In mitigation the defendant said that the pressures of running his business had got on top of him and long term staff sickness meant he had less and less time to care for the horse.

He admitted his treatment was wholly inadequate and he was remorseful. He also accepted that he could have sought help if he was having difficulty managing as the original owner who gifted him the horse had always made it clear that he should keep in contact if there were any problems and the owner would have taken the horse back – but he never advised them until it was too late.