Woman who failed to care for 130 animals loses appeal against sentence

A WOMAN who was found guilty of failing to care for more than 130 animals has lost her appeal against a suspended prison sentence and lifetime ban on keeping animals.

Christine Kelly was prosecuted following “one of the biggest animal welfare operations ever in the UK” at a farm in Ripley.

She was charged with a string of offences under the Animal Welfare Act, along with her partner Geoffrey Bennett, following a police and RSPCA raid on Hurst Farm in Portsmouth Road in January 2019.

Bennett was jailed for 19 weeks and disqualified from keeping any type of animal for life in October 2021. He initially denied welfare and mistreatment offences but changed his pleas to guilty.

Kelly’s case was heard at Staines Magistrates’ Court in June and August last year. She denied a total of 15 offences but was found guilty and given a suspended prison sentence of 26 weeks and the lifetime ban.

Her appeal took eight days at Guildford Crown Court between Monday, June 12 and Tuesday, June 20. Her appeal was dismissed by a judge on Friday, June 23.

Her prison sentence was suspended for two years and she was ordered to pay a victims’ fund surcharge of £122. She will be able to appeal against the lifetime ban in ten years.

The judge also issued a deprivation order, which means mistreated animals that are still in the care of the RSPCA and other animal charities can be rehomed.

Kelly, 62, had been convicted of failing to meet the needs of 131 equines by not providing a suitable environment, including a water supply, adequate nutrition, routine dental or farrier care, or adequate parasitic treatment or control.

She was also found guilty of causing unnecessary suffering to a number of horses, dogs and goats.

Throughout a long investigation by police and RSPCA officers, Kelly claimed she was not responsible for all of the animals that were found in terrible conditions on the farm. Surrey Police executed a warrant at Hurst Farm on January 9, 2019 as part of an RSPCA-led investigation into concerns for the welfare of horses at the site.

Rescuers including several animal welfare charities discovered horses, dogs and farm animals living in poor conditions.

Strings of ponies, many riddled with worms, were living out in fields with hazardous metal and broken fencing sticking up from the thick mud.

Inside two barns were pens full of donkeys, goats and ponies, many of them standing on top of thick carpets of waste and faeces. Many were skinny and had untreated health conditions.

Dozens of dogs – some heavily pregnant and others with tiny puppies – were found chained and tethered on the yard, while others were shut inside tiny cramped cages or makeshift kennels.

A total of 204 animals were discovered at the site.

Two horses and a goat were put to sleep at the at the farm and 201 animals were taken into charity care, including 129 horses and donkeys, 59 dogs, five goats, four chickens, three alpacas and a duck.

Despite urgent treatment, 14 horses that were weak, emaciated or had serious worm infestations, died or were put to sleep on veterinary advice. Two dogs and a goat had to be put to sleep on vet advice, and one chicken and one duck also died.

RSPCA special operations unit case officer Kirsty Withnall, who co-ordinated the huge rescue mission and led the investigation, commented: “More than 100 people from different agencies spent more than 12 hours assessing the animals, rounding them up and moving them to vets and rescue centres.

“It was one of the biggest animal welfare operations ever in the UK.”