A council who has taken legal action against a woman who has shared a home with her horse for nearly two years is set to be counter-sued for “harrassment” by her for £50,000.
The deadline runs out next Thursday for Stephanie Noble to make alterations to her home on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides so that her pony can still live in her lounge.
Among the demands that Western Isles Council is making to allow Ms Noble to keep the horse in her semi-detached house is that every door that the pony uses at the property - including the front door - must be at least four feet wide.
Currently Grey Lady Too passes through four doors to go in and out of the house from inside her stable in the front living room.
In addition the council is insisting that the four-year-old dappled grey must have at least two feet clearance above its head while in the living room at the home in Back on the Isle of Lewis.
But a defiant Ms Noble, who has been served with an animal care notice, says she will fight the moves and is now threatening to sue the council for £50,000 damages over the “harrassment.”
Ms Noble, 67, said she had no choice but to move her pony into her home after the animal was “dumped” on her lawn on Christmas Eve two years ago following a dispute with the owner of the land where the filly had previously grazed.
The move however has sparked visits by the Scottish SPCA and the local environmental health department.
But Ms Noble says she is doing nothing wrong and the pony is well cared for.
In September 2011 Ms Noble bought the registered Connemara pony for £1850 from Eire and by the following Christmas it was in her house.
“I am not handing her over. They cannot legally take her away from me,” she said today.
“This is my own property - if I want to even keep an elephant in the house I can. I have had nothing but stick from people because it is unconventional. But because it is unconventional does not make it wrong or illegal.
“It is not normal to keep birds in a cage - because they should be flying about - but people don’t complain about that.
“The pony is very happy in the lounge and the Scottish SPCA have checked her and say she is good health.
“I take all her droppings out when they happen and before I go to bed. It is a very hygienic set-up and the pony is well-cared for.
“This move by the council comes from people who don’t understand animals.
“I am not going to do the work they want. If I get taken to court I will fight it with very good and sound arguments.
“And I will be seeking £50,000 from them for harrassment, false accusations and punitive damages - which I will use towards a new home for Grey Lady Too, including a shed.”
A letter from the council’s animal welfare officer Kenny Macleod said the action was being taken under the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006.
“Following the breakdown of the initial arrangements you had made for the care of the horse in December 2011 you have been using the ‘living room’ of your semi-detached house....for stabling in combination with grazing on nearby unfenced communal ground,” he wrote.
“My concern is that whilst the initial arrangement was borne out of necessity, it has become permanent.”
Mr Macleod says that the “current arrangements” do not comply with the legislation “and in my opinion the horse is likely to suffer if its circumstances do not change.”
Ms Noble has been given until Thursday (October 3) to comply and “make alternative and more suitable arrangements for the care of the horse” and “non-compliance with the requirements of the Care Notice is an offence.”
A spokesman for Western Isles Council said:”Although the horse is being kept in a private home and not a council property, our concern is about the welfare of the horse. There is a legal process which will take its course and we cannot comment further at this case.”
A spokeswoman for Scottish SPCA has said:”We would have had concerns if the horse suffering in any way. But she is actually in very good condition.”