A father and son allowed a horse in their care to starve to death, Bradford and Keighley magistrates heard yesterday.

Karl Dickinson, 38, and his son Connor English, 19, of Holme Wood Road, Holme Wood, appeared in the dock to face charges of causing unnecessary harm to a protected animal and for failing to seek help from a vet.

The pair, who kept a total of five horses in a family-owned field in Glenbrook Drive, Lidget Green, Bradford, pleaded guilty to charges involving two of their animals.

Nigel Monaghan, prosecuting for the RSPCA, said a cob pony was found emaciated and malnourished and was very weak.

The second horse, a black and white mare, was taken into care by the RSPCA and was also in a poor condition.

In mitigation for both defendants, Lee-Anne Robins-Hicks said the horses were like family members to them and no harm was caused intentionally.

She told the court English was a final year student at a college studying to be a farrier, a specialist in hoof care, and if he was disqualified from keeping horses it would jeopardise his career.

Chairman of the bench Kailash Mahanty said while the court took animal cruelty cases very seriously magistrates felt the pair were of a low risk of re-offending.

He said: “We feel that there is no point in disqualification, as Mr English’s future depends on this as he is in his final year.”

The two defendants were each ordered to pay a total of £250 in fines and costs.

After the case, RSPCA spokesman Leanne Plumtree, said: “This was a shocking case.

“Whenever we bring a case like this we always hope for a ban on keeping animals as the best way to ensure others don't suffer in future but of course sentencing is for the court to decide.”