A COURT has issued a ten-year ban on keeping horses to a Quarry Bank man who failed to protect his animals from ragwort poisoning.

Alfie Southall, of Thorns Road, was given the decade-long disqualification at Kidderminster Magistrates Court after pleading guilty to four cruelty charges under the Animal Welfare Act.

The 42-year-old, who was also ordered to do 250 hours of unpaid work and pay £1,000 towards costs, admitted failing to address his piebald mare's poor condition and investigate the symptoms of ragwort poisoning - which claimed the animal's life.

He also admitted causing a poisonous substance (ragwort) to be taken by a protected animal and had previously pleaded guilty to another offence of failing to ensure his horses had access to fresh drinking water.

The court heard the 16-year-old mare, which had been grazing on a field in Timber Lane, Stourport-on-Severn, along with eight other horses, was spotted staggering around in June last year in an extremely poor condition.

A vet was called to the field which was 50 to 60 per cent covered in weeds - largely ragwort which causes irreversible liver damage in horses and livestock - and the animal was diagnosed with severe liver damage.

The severity of the disease meant the mare had to be put to sleep at the scene - and a post mortem later confirmed ragwort had caused the animal's condition.

Southall was given a notice by the RSPCA advising him to clear the ragwort and to address welfare concerns involving other horses.

A spokesman for the animal charity said the advice was later followed but the horses had already been living among the ragwort for some time.

RSPCA Inspector Suzi Smith said: “Ragwort can result in an extremely painful death for horses. This defendant said he knew of the dangers of ragwort for horses but saw no problem in continuing to let his horses graze on it.

“If there is no other grazing horses will eat ragwort and landowners and horse owners have a legal responsibility to clear the weed from their land.”

Accepting the ban on keeping horses, Southall told the court he had given the surviving animals away.