THENORTHERNECHO.CO.UK — An equine author and her husband who let their own animals live in squalid conditions have been banned from keeping horses indefinitely.
Lesley and Brian Skipper of Durham Road, Stockton-on-Tees had previously denied four counts of causing unnecessary suffering to their horses and two charges of failing to ensure the animals' welfare but were found guilty after a trial.
An RSPCA investigation found that two of the horses at the couple's stables in Sadberge Lane, Middleton St George, near Darlington, were suffering from the chronic foot disease laminitis, while another had severe dental problems.
One of the horses, an Arab stallion named Nivalis, had to be euthanised on site while a further two were put down several weeks later.
RSPCA inspectors found that the animals were sleeping in stables lined with more than 18 inches of dirty bedding and the couple had failed to get veterinary treatment for the horses' ailments.
They both appeared before Darlington Magistrates' Court today (Monday, October 15) where their solicitor, Ann Marie Gregory, said that any ban on keeping animals should relate only to horses because there was no evidence that the couple had ever neglected their other animals.
Miss Gregory said: "These people are in their late fifties, early sixties and there is no suggestion that they have neglected any other animals.
"They have dogs and cats at home, I ask that they can keep the dogs and cats bearing in mind it is the first offence and bearing in mind the difficulties they have had."
The court had previously heard that Mr Skipper, 56, suffers from bipolar and post-traumatic stress disorder and that the pair were suffering from flu when the bedding became too difficult to clear out by hand.
Presiding magistrate Les Abbott banned them from keeping equines indefinitely and imposed a deprivation order in favour of the RSPCA, meaning that a fourth horse will stay under the charity’s care.
The couple were also ordered to pay £250 each towards court costs.
Speaking after the sentence, RSPCA inspector Ruth Coxon said: "We are really pleased with the sentencing, we strove for a ban, that is what we took them to court for and that is what we have got.
"The fact that it is an indefinite ban is really good news to protect future animals from suffering in their hands."
Mrs Skipper, 61, has written several equine books, including 'Understanding the Arabian Horse' and 'Realise Your Horses' True Potential'.