A man has pleaded guilty to causing unnecessary suffering to a horse in Chertsey.

Maurice Smith, 30, of Hawthorn Way, Shepperton, was charged under the Animal Welfare Act after evidence emerged of how he had subjected the horse to prolonged neglect and ill-treatment, which had left the horse in "extreme distress."

Mr Smith was given a 12 month community order, ordered to carry out 120 hours of unpaid work and was ordered to pay £400 court costs and an £85 victim surcharge when he appeared at Staines Magistrates’ Court last Wednesday (3 April).

The news followed a year-long investigation by Surrey Police, who seized the horse, whose name is April, from a Chertsey field in May last year after receiving reports of mistreatment the previous month.

A spokesperson for Surrey Police described the course of events: "A number of witnesses initially contacted police in April 2018 to report that the horse, April, was in distress. She had been left double rugged in temperatures of 24 degrees without shade and was sweating profusely.

"Police attended the location and decided that April needed immediate medical care and seized her under the Animal Welfare Act."

Police said that after taking April into their care, a full medical examination revealed the extent of her suffering, which included malnourishment and a suspected viral infection.

Surrey Police said: "After a full medical examination by a vet, April was found to be undernourished, with multiple sores, was wearing ill-fitting handmade shoes which were causing her foot pain, and was suffering from worms or a viral infection.

"The vet said that she had been subjected to poor management and undue suffering."

Mr Smith was identified as April’s owner but initially denied that she belonged to him when he was interviewed.

He later admitted that she was his and said that he had asked a vet to examine April and that she was being treated with antibiotics, though failed to provide further details on this treatment.

Investigating officer PC Chloe Hodgkinson, who made the decision to take April into care under the Animal Welfare Act, said: "This was a complex investigation which took many months to bring to fruition.

"I was called to deal with the incident and was shocked by the pitiful state April was in.

"From speaking to a number of witnesses, it soon became apparent that April had been suffering over a prolonged period. I put a case together against her owner, Maurice Smith, which resulted in him being charged with causing unnecessary suffering to an animal and being brought before the court last week."

PC Hodgkinson added: "April has since received the care and treatment that she needed and is making a good recovery. I hope that this case will deter other owners from neglecting their animals and send a strong message that if you are caught, you will be dealt with."