A British man has been jailed for tethering a horse so close to a cliff that it ended up dangling by its neck over the edge.
The piebald colt, nicknamed Frank during a dramatic six-hour rescue operation early in March, was hauled to safety, but was euthanised after it became clear his windpipe had collapsed.
Sam Smith, 54, of Romany Lane, Kessingland, Lowestoft, was jailed for eight weeks and banned from keeping animals for 15 years after admitting causing unnecessary suffering and failing to meet the welfare needs of the horse.
The sentence was handed down in Lowestoft Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday.
His colt had been tethered close to the cliff edge near Pontins Pakefield Holiday Park and had then fallen, leaving him hanging by his neck.
The court heard that RSPCA Inspector Nicky Thorne was called out to the incident.
Thinking the horse was already dead, Thorne desperately scrambled up the cliff and called Suffolk Fire and Rescue for help. As she reached the horse she realised he was still breathing and cut him loose from his tether with her pocketknife. She then sat with the horse, who she nicknamed Frank, wrapping him in her coats until the fire service arrived.
The horse was unconscious and the fire service gave him oxygen and took turns sitting and holding his head, wrapping him in covers and tarpaulins to keep him warm.
Thorne said: “This was a tragic case which highlights just how dangerous tethering can be.
“Dozens of people were involved in trying to save that poor little horse on a cold, wet and windy night – but just one person was responsible for leaving him tethered beside a steep cliff and then hanging by his neck over the edge.
“The prison sentence shows how seriously the court took this case and should act as a deterrent against the reckless use of tethers on horses left unattended like this.”
The coastguard was also called, along with senior vet Nic de Brauwere from Redwings Horse Sanctuary in Norfolk.
Thorne said: “Nic was fantastic and spent the hour-long journey to Redwings in the horse box with the horse, getting him on to a drip, administering all the emergency care he could and ringing round for advice on the specific injuries. Another Redwings vet also came out to help despite it being almost midnight.”
On arrival at Redwings, the horse started to regain consciousness but it became obvious that his windpipe had collapsed, leaving him unable to breathe. He had also suffered extensive nerve damage and had to be euthanised to prevent him from suffering further.
De Brauwere, who is head of welfare and a senior veterinary surgeon at Redwings, said: “There is no doubt that young Frank suffered terribly, which is harrowing enough in itself. But what is most upsetting is the knowledge that the whole incident was completely unnecessary.
“Inspector Thorne behaved with incredible courage to try to save Frank and we felt at the time that he might have a chance, but sadly too much damage had been done.
“I thank the courts for recognising the tragedy and futility of this incident and hope that anyone who tethers their horses will be reminded that if it has to be done at all tethering has to be done properly or there can be dire consequences for the horses and ponies involved.”
Thorne added: “I was so upset, I kept telling the horse he would be the most famous and looked after horse in Suffolk if he pulled through and then to lose him after six hours of trying to save him was awful.
“I am so grateful to the fire service, to the coastguard and to Redwings – everyone went above and beyond to try to save this horse’s life.
“I called the horse Frank after Frank Sinatra as he had blue eyes and I will remember him for a long time.”
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