Family convicted for neglecting horses

A family of five was convicted of animal cruelty today for keeping emaciated horses alongside rotting animal corpses on a squalid farm in Buckinghamshire.

Animal health inspectors found more than 100 horses, ponies and donkeys and the bodies of 32 others at Spindle Farm near Amersham in January last year.

RSPCA inspector Kirsty Hampton said the scene had been distressing and grotesque.

"Many horses and ponies had just been left to starve, and the smell of rotting flesh was overpowering," she said.

James John Gray, 45, and his son James Gray junior, 16, were found guilty of causing unnecessary suffering to 40 horses, the RSPCA said.

Along with wife Julie, 41, and daughters Jodie, 26, and Cordelia, 20, they were also found guilty of failing to meet the welfare needs of 114 horses.

Witnesses at the 12-week trial at Bicester Magistrates Court said the animals had little food and were crammed into pens ankle deep in their own faeces.

Others had been left to die where they fell and then decompose. In one pen, nine horses were found with two corpses.

Gray, who has a previous conviction for horse cruelty, told the court it was common for horses to "drop down dead", the Press Association reported.

He denied the animals were poorly housed or fed, adding that said some of the corpses were family pets he was waiting to bury.

Sentencing was postponed until 12 June.