Retired school teacher jailed for cruel neglect of 19 Shetland ponies

-Credit: (Image: RSPCA)

A retired school teacher has been jailed and banned from keeping animals for life after cruelly neglecting 19 Shetland ponies - resulting in the death of eight of them.

Janet Marr, of Sandall Park Rise, Doncaster, was given a locked up for a year at Sheffield Crown Court today (May 28) after pleading guilty at an earlier hearing. Field officers from World Horse Welfare were contacted about concerns for horses in Wrancarr Lane, Moss, in July 2023 and after making an initial visit, called in the RSPCA to investigate further.

The charities worked together to rescue 19 Shetland ponies found in varying states of neglect - from their dire body condition, severely overgrown hooves, severe lameness, dental issues and them living in an unsuitable environment.

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The court heard Marr had been breeding the animals as show ponies. In her witness statement, RSPCA Inspector Tamsin Drysdale said: “Several of the mares showed severe laminitis with overgrown hooves. One of the mares was not moving at all and it was clear she was in pain, as were several of the others.

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“A specialist equine vet concluded in their witness report that all the problems and suffering seen in these horses could all have been avoided by reasonable practical means, and that they are of the expert opinion that Marr did not take reasonable steps to meet their basic needs."

After sentencing, Insp Drysdale said: “I am relieved that together with World Horse Welfare, we were able to rescue these ponies. It’s really important that horse owners carefully consider whether breeding their animal is a good idea.”

A deprivation order was also granted for two Shetland ponies that remained in Marr’s care. Sadly, vets made the decision that six ponies, who were suffering with chronic laminitis, could not be saved and were put to sleep to end their suffering.

The remaining 13 Shetlands were taken to World Horse Welfare’s Penny Farm Rescue and Rehoming Centre in Lancashire. Despite all efforts, two more were sadly put to sleep due to ongoing health issues. However, the team has successfully rehabilitated the remaining ponies.

Sarah Tucker, a World Horse Welfare Field Officer involved in the rescue, shared her relief and satisfaction with the outcome: “One of the best parts of my job is seeing horses thriving after the pitiful state they are in when we rescue them. So many of this group of Shetlands were suffering with laminitis, which is an excruciating condition.

“We also welcome the deprivation order the court served to remove the remaining ponies in her care so that all of them can face a secure future. Sadly, this is another case showing one of the outcomes of uncontrolled breeding.