A MAN who took home a foal to "try and save its life" appeared before magistrates yesterday charged with neglecting the animal.

John Williamson, of St Mary's Close, Bishop Auckland, appeared before the town's magistrates' court, charged with failing to provide the necessary care to a skewbald foal.

The horse was confiscated by RSPCA inspector Gavin Butterfield on May 19, on the Romanway Industrial Estate, and an examination found it was underweight, had lice, and a parasitic infection.

The foal was taken to a sanctuary in Chester-le-Street, where its weight almost trebled, from 109kg to 285kg.

Williamson told the court he was an animal lover, especially of horses, and "would never, ever do anything to hurt it".

Williamson acquired the foal at a horse sale last December, which he attended with his eight-year-old daughter.

A man there was trying to find a foster mother for the orphaned foal, which Williamson's daughter liked, and he said "took pity" on the horse.

He said: "It was in a wretched condition, very weak. I could pick it up and carry it to the box and it felt like nothing in my hands.

"I just wanted to save its life."

Magistrates were told that he wormed and deloused the animal and asked for advice when he took another horse to a vet, but the foal was never actually taken to the veterinary practice.

Kevin Campbell, prosecuting, said: "Do you not think it would have been sensible to visit a vet, given the way you found the foal?"

Mr Williamson said that, looking back, it could have been the best course, but at first the foal appeared to be getting better.

The case continues.