Janet Marr: 'Callous' woman mistreated & neglected 19 ponies but ensured show horses were well cared for

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“The truth is you looked after those that made the grade, and visited cruelty upon those who didn’t.” 

A former Doncaster teacher in her 70s has been jailed for her mistreatment of 19 Shetland ponies who did not ‘make the grade’ to be exhibited at county shows. 

While the majority of miniature Shetland ponies in Janet Marr’s care were mistreated, with health complaints including lice infestations, dental neglect and severely overgrown hooves, her two show ponies were ‘well looked-after’ and received adequate care during the same period of time, Sheffield Crown Court heard. 

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The Recorder of Sheffield, Judge Jeremy Richardson KC, described the actions of Marr, aged 73, as a ‘deplorable case of animal cruelty,’ which resulted in eight ponies being euthanised due to the ‘suffering conditions’ they were in when they were found by inspectors. 

The Recorder of Sheffield, Judge Jeremy Richardson KC, described the actions of Marr, aged 73, as a ‘deplorable case of animal cruelty,’ which resulted in eight ponies being euthanised due to the ‘suffering conditions’ they were in when they were found by inspectorsThe Recorder of Sheffield, Judge Jeremy Richardson KC, described the actions of Marr, aged 73, as a ‘deplorable case of animal cruelty,’ which resulted in eight ponies being euthanised due to the ‘suffering conditions’ they were in when they were found by inspectors
The Recorder of Sheffield, Judge Jeremy Richardson KC, described the actions of Marr, aged 73, as a ‘deplorable case of animal cruelty,’ which resulted in eight ponies being euthanised due to the ‘suffering conditions’ they were in when they were found by inspectors | Submit

He continued: “You were masquerading as a responsible and caring horsewoman. You were nothing of the kind. 

“The truth is you looked after those that made the grade, and visited cruelty upon those who didn’t.” 

“[They] were neglected in a truly appalling way. Some were suffering pain and agony, some could barely move.”

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“You are an intelligent woman, there was no lack of money. A serious aspect of this case is that you cared for the ponies that were show ponies, but you comprehensively neglected those that didn’t make the grade for show purposes…there was a veneer of respectable ownership and care.”

A hearing held on May 28, 2024 was told that Marr, a retired Doncaster school teacher, received a caution in June 2020 for neglecting her Shetland ponies, but Judge Richardson said ‘callous’ Marr had failed to ‘change her ways’. 

RSPCA inspectors attended land owned by Marr in Wrancarr Lane, Moss, Doncaster, in July 2023, after a member of the public contacted the charity, World Horse Welfare, over concerns for the welfare of horses kept on the land. A specialist veterinarian was also dispatched to the land to examine each of the 19 ponies. 

“What they found was a considerable number of Shetland ponies in a suffering condition. A number of them had severely overgrown hooves and were displaying symptoms of laminitis.

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“A number of your horses were seen to be suffering with lice infestations and dental problems,” Judge Richardson said. 

Advice from animal charity Blue Cross states that laminitis is a ‘very painful condition’ which causes permanent damage to the foot; ‘and, in some cases, can be fatal’.  

This picture, released by the RSPCA, shows the severely overgrown left fore hoof which is deformed and curling up. There are marked laminitic rings presentThis picture, released by the RSPCA, shows the severely overgrown left fore hoof which is deformed and curling up. There are marked laminitic rings present
This picture, released by the RSPCA, shows the severely overgrown left fore hoof which is deformed and curling up. There are marked laminitic rings present | Submit

Judge Richardson continued: “The extreme neglect was such that six of the ponies had to be euthanised at once.”

A further two Shetland ponies were subsequently put to sleep due to their ongoing health issues, the court heard. 

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A RSPCA spokesperson has confirmed that Marr was deprived of the remaining 11 Shetlands, who have since beeen taken to World Horse Welfare’s Penny Farm Rescue and Rehoming Centre in Lancashire. 

“The animals for show were well looked-after, and the ones who did not make the grade were not,” Judge Richardson said. 

During her interview with the RSPCA, Marr stated she had bought some form of pain medication to treat the animals, but conceded they had not been examined for a ‘long time’. Marr also accepted that the mistreated ponies had not received any dental care for three years, with the last time following her caution for identical treatment of the animals. 

Marr, of Sandall Park Drive, Wheatley Hills subsequently pleaded guilty to three counts of causing unnecessary suffering to a protected animal and one count of breach of duty of person responsible for animal to ensure welfare at an earlier hearing. 

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All four of the offences were carried out between March and July 2023. 

Referring to the mitigation advanced on Marr’s behalf by her barrister, Francis Edusei, Judge Richardson said he accepted she had some personal mitigation, relating to her age and ‘the fact a prison sentence would fall hard upon her’. 

He told her, however, that ‘age was not a factor when you were looking after the show ponies’.

Referring to the suggestion made on Marr’s behalf that she wanted to give the ponies ‘one more summer,’ Judge Richardson responded: “You were giving those ponies one more summer of neglect, and in some cases - complete agony.”

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Judge Richardson noted that apart from Marr’s guilty pleas, he could not see any evidence that she has demonstrated any remorse. 

Jailing her for 12 months, Judge Richardson told her: “You are a disgrace to the horse-owning community.”

He continued: “It is truly a terrible state of affairs that a 73-year-old woman, a former school mistress, should be sent to prison immediately for any period of time. However, the circumstances of this case warrant that course of action. You visited terrible cruelty upon those Shetland ponies.”

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Judge Richardson also banned Marr from owning any animal for the next 12 years, stating that a woman capable of such ‘cruelty’ towards Shetland ponies which failed to make the grade could be ‘cruel to any creature’. 

Speaking after Marr was sentenced, RSPCA Inspector Tamsin Drysdale said: “Several of the mares showed severe laminitis with overgrown hooves. One of the mares was not moving at all and it was clear she was in pain, as were several of the others. 

“A specialist equine vet concluded in their witness report that all the problems and suffering seen in these horses could all have been avoided by reasonable practical means, and that they are of the expert opinion that Marr did not take reasonable steps to meet their basic needs.”

“I am relieved that together with World Horse Welfare, we were able to rescue these ponies. It’s really important that horse owners carefully consider whether breeding their animal is a good idea.”

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Sarah Tucker, a World Horse Welfare Field Officer involved in the rescue, shared her relief and satisfaction with the outcome: “One of the best parts of my job is seeing horses thriving after the pitiful state they are in when we rescue them. So many of this group of Shetlands were suffering with laminitis, which is an excruciating condition.

“We also welcome the deprivation order the court served to remove the remaining ponies in her care so that all of them can face a secure future. Sadly, this is another case showing one of the outcomes of uncontrolled breeding.”