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Betty the photobombing horse causes huge row after photo wins prize

David Bellis’s amusing picture of a photobombing horse didn’t only win him a free vacation worth £2,000 (about $2,900). It also brought him international attention and a whole load of hassle after the party-pooping owner of the animal demanded a share of the prize.

Bellis was out for a walk with his son in Wales recently when son Jacob asked to take a selfie with the horse behind him. As he snapped the photo, the horse – one clearly with a mischievous sense of humor – decided to join in the fun and say “cheese.”

Realizing they’d captured something special, Jacob’s dad entered the picture in Thomson Holidays’ Made Me Smile photo contest.

Soon after Bellis was announced as the winner, the horse’s owner, Nicola Mitchell, complained to the travel firm, insisting he should’ve asked for permission before taking a shot of her horse, called Betty.

“I was really annoyed”

“I was really annoyed to hear he had won a £2,000 holiday and had used a picture of our horse without our permission,” Mitchell was quoted as saying by ITV.

She went on: “He should have asked for our consent. There should be some token gesture as it is our horse that has really won them the holiday.”

She added that if she’d known the photo contest was taking place, “we would have entered and could have won as Betty is always sticking out her tongue…. I will be phoning Thomson Holidays to tell them what has gone on.”

A bemused Bellis said he couldn’t see why Mitchell was so angry.

“At first they thought I was winning £2,000 cash and said I should give them half, but it’s a holiday so they are not getting a penny,” he said, adding, “I’m not giving them the holiday either. They would have to come on the holiday with me – and that isn’t happening unless we’re both in a saddle together on the horse.”

As often happens, the fuss soon found its way onto social media, with the vast majority of commenters lambasting the horse owner for being “self-seeking,” “spiteful,” and “greedy” (among other things).

Related: A fake picture won Nikon’s photography contest, and the Internet had a field day

As Thomson reviewed its decision, local lawyer Wayne Beynon told Wales Online the horse owner had “no cause for complaint. The father and child were on a public footpath (and not in the field) and so there is no issue of trespass.”

He added that a photographer “automatically owns copyright in the image and does not require permission of the horse (or its owner) to take the photo – much in the same way as photographers don’t require permission to take pictures of celebrities when they are out in public.”

On Tuesday, Thomson Holidays, which incidentally must’ve been delighted with the huge amount of free publicity generated by the quarrel, announced its final decision. And the news was good for Jacob and his mom and dad.

“Despite questions over foal play, Mr Bellis and his family will be getting the £2,000 holiday prize they won after entering our Made Me Smile competition. Hoof a great holiday!” the company quipped on its Facebook page.