ASHLEY HARLEY: Law needs to change to give more protection to animals

Fred in the stable in Newgate Lane
Fred in the stable in Newgate Lane

We must have safer festivals in bid to avoid more tragedy

The recent case of badly-neglected horses in a stable in Newgate Lane, Fareham left me shocked and utterly saddened.

That people can do this to animals is so upsetting.

Back in early 2000 I kept my three Shetland ponies in a paddock opposite this stable.

There is a large equine community in and around Fareham. Everybody knows everybody and it has really upset us all.

The photographs of those skeletal and emaciated horses that were shut in dilapidated stables for several weeks will haunt me forever.

Especially distressing were the images of Phoebe, who died and was left with her stablemate Fred, which must have been utterly distressing for him.

You would think that the person responsible for this would be thrown in prison for such cruelty, wouldn’t you?

RSPCA inspector Jenny Ride said it was the worst case she’d ever seen in 15 years in the job. But all Claire Hopkins got was an eight-week suspended sentence, banned from keeping a horse for three years and a paltry £300 fine.

She admitted three offences in regards to three of the horses being left unattended for two weeks. Phoebe died during that time.

This was a thoroughly horrific case for anyone reading about it, and more so for those of us who go past the stables and can only imagine the suffering Phoebe experienced in her final days.

Tragically, cruelty to animals seems to be more widespread than you might imagine. Just last month two dead foals were dumped by the roadside in Swanmore, with only a thin tarpaulin hiding their young bodies.

Public outcry rightly followed both cases but I believe the law needs to change drastically to give greater protection to animals. Things shouldn’t have to get to the stage where an animal dies before the RSPCA will intervene.

People who commit cruelty to animals should also be severely punished for their crimes, not just given what is a slap on the wrist.

I feel so passionate about this and really hope the powers-that-be act before more animals suffer.


I’m very sad to say that this is my last column for The News as I’m moving on to pastures new and exploring different opportunities.

It’s been a joy and a great privilege to write my thoughts about the world on this page over the past five-and-a half years and it’s taken me on many adventures.

As a child I grew up with The News popping through the family letterbox on a daily basis thanks to our dedicated paperboy.

He was still delivering it at the age of 26 – that’s how committed he was!

So, dear readers, I bid you farewell and thank you all for reading my columns over the years – whether or not you agreed with me.

I wish each and every one of you a very happy, healthy and prosperous new year.


Social media is a total addiction of mine. I can’t help checking my Facebook and Twitter accounts every 10 minutes or so.

I don’t think I have a problem though.

But recently, when on my holibobs down in lovely Beaulieu in the New Forest where there was no phone signal, (well, not unless you stood in the middle of a road waving your phone in the air), I did find it really refreshing not to be constantly glued to a screen.

It meant I got to do other things, like actually having conversations with people face-to-face.

Now I’m back home, I’ve decided that I’m going to limit my social media habit and only look at my mobile every half-an-hour.

Well, at least it’s a start isn’t it?.