The owner of two neglected horses will not face criminal charges, but will never own animals again.

Calix Darrell, who was banned from owning animals for five years in 2006 after admitting cruelty charges, has signed a “legally binding agreement” with animal protection agency the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to stop him, or anyone living on his land, from owning animals on it during his lifetime.

The agreement came after two emaciated horses, Charlie and Arthur, were seized by the SPCA from Darrell’s property in Southampton last month.

The charity hailed the conclusion of the case as “an excellent result”, but former SPCA president Allison Williams accused the organisation of failing to act quickly enough to protect the horses.

The SPCA would not name the owner, but described him as “elderly and unwell.” A spokeswoman added: “If an animal is found on any of the previous owner’s premises or in his possession at any time, this will result in the SPCA seizing such animal immediately.

“This gives the SPCA much more control and oversight in this particular situation. The contract is between the SPCA and the former owner and a member of his family as guardian. No further legal action will be taken.”

Mrs Williams claimed the SPCA first became aware of the horses’ condition in “midsummer” after a call from a member of the public, but failed to follow-up on the subsequent inspection until September after a further complaint.

She questioned why the charity allowed the horses to remain with Mr Darrell for two weeks, while volunteers fed them, before they were relocated and why the animals were not taken to the SPCA’s Stempel stables.

She said the SPCA’s decision not to prosecute the owner “set a very poor example”.

Mrs Williams added: “It is very obvious to anyone who knows how the system works that this case has been mishandled from the very beginning. These animals were left by the SPCA to starve.

“They then turned a blind eye and continued to leave them in what they consider horrible circumstances for another two weeks. It is disgusting and horrid to think that an organisation there to protect animals could behave in this manner.”

Mrs Williams also questioned why the SPCA had not tried to have the two horses adopted.

She said: “The SPCA is not a sanctuary. They cannot keep every animal. Who is going to pay for their long-term care which is thousands of dollars?”

But the SPCA hit back at the criticism and insisted it had acted in line with vet’s advice and in the best interests of the horses.

The charity also confirmed that a few months before the seizure of the horses in October, its inspector and vet had been working closely with the owner to improve conditions for the animals and that progress was being made.

The spokeswoman said: “The SPCA had taken over the care and feeding of the horses on-site prior to the issuing of a warrant to seize Arthur and Charlie.

“The horses were removed from their cramped stables and kept on site in a turnout area, where they were tended to daily by SPCA staff.

“Once the horses were able to be moved, they were taken by the SPCA to a stable more appropriate for their specific circumstances and remain under the control of the SPCA and the guidance of veterinarian Lucy Richardson.

“Veterinarian advice was to allow the horses space to move about and graze, which would help their teeth and their overall body condition, and their current location offers plenty of grazing room. They are free to graze day and night and have access to shelter at all times.”

Dr Richardson, who is still involved in the horses’ care, added: “They needed to have access to grazing to help their arthritic condition, and for their mental and physical wellbeing, so stabling alone was not a solution.”

The charity spokeswoman confirmed that both horses were doing well at a private residence and thanked the public for donations it had received.

She added: “They are gaining weight and have had dental work carried out. Their accommodation is being provided at no charge to the SPCA and, thanks to the support of donors, the SPCA has been supplied with funds to help pay for medical care as well as gifts of beet pulp, hay, apples, blankets, fly spray and other necessities.

“We have one donor who comes almost every day with treats, wood shavings and food, donating hours of her time to caring for Arthur and Charlie.”

By Simon Jones The Royal Gazette