There has been a lot of justified outrage in the past week concerning the trainee solicitor who left her dog locked up in a kitchen only for it to die a long, cruel death. Sadly, animal cruelty is something that often rears it ugly head and, upon reading this story, I was reminded of a tale from my own family’s past.
On March 23rd, 1862, my great-great-great grandfather, Henry Mills, beerhouse keeper in Mill Street, Toxteth Park, heard loud coughing and neighing sounds coming from the stable he rented to John Thornton, a car driver and proprietor. Upon looking through a gap in the shutters, he saw two horses lying on the floor. He did not enter the stable but, the following day, he opened up one of the shutters on the stable window and sent someone in to see the condition of the horses. Subsequently, Henry entered the stable himself and was shocked by what he saw. The horses were lying on the floor, the fore foot of one of them being over the halter by which it was tied. The horse’s eye was injured as a result of it striking itself against the manger. The animals were both in a horrendous state of exhaustion and emaciation. In an attempt to improve the health of the horses, Henry prepared and gave them some bran mash.
The following Tuesday morning, Henry once again looked into the stable and, to his shock, found one of the horses had died. He removed the animal and placed the other horse in the stall. For the following four or five days, he tried to raise the surviving horse but it was all proving too difficult due to its severe ill health.
Henry sent for John Thornton, who arrived in a state intoxication and did not attempt to provide any relief for the horse. Henry decided it was time to call in the authorities. On examining the animal, veterinary surgeon, Mr Briscoe, stated that it was in need of proper nourishment. It had large abscesses on the left side of its body, legs, face, cheek and knee and was reduced to a complete skeleton. It was also suffering from diseases of the lungs and liver. Mr Briscoe stated that this was the worst case of neglect he had witnessed in his career.
Thornton was charged under the 13th section of the act of Parliament for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals with having wilfully neglected and abused two horses. He was fined £5 and costs and, in default of payment, would be imprisoned for two months.