“I really don’t think I need to tell you what I think about this family of scum…if I did you wouldn’t understand because it would be all expletives: like %$%&  & ££!^&)!> :%&*£$^^+~ etc.!! Horses just left to die….they are not fit to breathe the same air as horses never mind decent human beings!”

A South Wales horse dealer has been convicted of 57 animal cruelty and welfare charges, in a case that highlights the problem of fly-grazing in the region.

Tom Price, 48, from Wick in Glamorgan, was found guilty of causing unnecessary suffering and failing to meet the needs of 27 gypsy cobs by a court in Cardiff on 14 June.

The horses were found at five different locations in South Wales. The RSPCA — which brought the prosecution — said 12 of the animals had been “left to die” in a barn in Bridgend.

Price’s eldest son, Thomas Hope Price, 26, pleaded guilty to 42 welfare charges at an earlier hearing. A second son, Tony Price, 19, also admitted to failing to meet the welfare needs of two horses.

RSPCA inspector Christine McNeil said some of the animals they found were “the most poorly and diseased horses I have come across”. The 12 horses found in the barn had been locked in with no access to food or water.

Welfare agencies estimate that the Prices own as many as 2,500 gypsy cobs. Price senior ran a company called Glamorgan Horse Traders. Since 2011, problems had been reported with his horses fly-grazing in the area.

In November last year, he was given an anti-social behaviour order to prevent his horses fly-grazing and straying on to roads in the Vale of Glamorgan.

The Welsh Government is undertaking a consultation on ways to tackle fly-grazing. Welfare organisations are lobbying for criminal legislation to penalise the worst perpetrators and to act as a deterrent.

“We need tougher laws that give authorities power to address aggressive and cruel fly-grazing and make owners accountable for their animals,” said Roly Owers, chief executive of World Horse Welfare.

The three members of the Price family will be sentenced at Cardiff Magistrates Court on 5 July. The judge warned Price snr that all options — including custody — remained open.

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound magazine (27 June 2013)