A man has been jailed after 170 animals were found living in poor conditions on a farm in the UK.
He appeared before Guildford Crown Court on October 15th for:
- Causing unnecessary suffering to two horses and one goat;
- Failing to meet the needs of 171 animals, including 131 horses, 33 dogs, two alpacas and five birds.
According to the bodies involved, this was one of the biggest coordinated rescue missions the UK has ever seen.
The judge sentenced him to 19 weeks in prison and disqualified him from keeping all animals for life. He previously pleaded guilty to two offences under the Animal Welfare Act and six offences of failing to dispose of animal by-products.
Sentencing the man, the court recorder said: “They will show you responsibility and care [in prison] many times greater than you showed the animals in your care.”
The case came to light when Surrey Police executed a warrant at a farm in Surrey on January 9th, 2019, as part of an investigation led by its RSPCA’s Special Operations Unit (SOU) into horses’ welfare concerns.
Guildford Borough Council, Bucks and Surrey Trading Standards, Bransby Horses, Redwings, The Horse Trust, The Donkey Sanctuary, World Horse Welfare, Dogs Trust, and vets assisted on the day.
Rescuers discovered two starving ponies suffering from cyathostominosis in one pen, and a goat collapsed in another.
In court, their owner admitted to failing to provide them with enough nutritious food or seek veterinary treatment for them. All three animals were put down on the advice of vets to prevent them from further suffering.
Ponies, many riddled with worms, were living out in fields with hazardous metal and broken fencing sticking up from the mud. Inside two barns were pens full of donkeys, goats, alpacas, and ponies.
The court heard many of them were standing on top of 2ft-3ft of months’ worth of waste and faeces, and many had underlying health conditions.
Dozens of dogs – some heavily pregnant and others with small puppies in tow – were found chained and tethered on the filthy yard. The court heard others were shut inside “tiny, cramped” cages or makeshift kennels.
Animal welfare charges
Their owner admitted to animal welfare charges including:
- Causing unnecessary suffering to two collapsed ponies and one collapsed goat;
- Not meeting the needs of more than 100 others by failing to provide:
- A suitable environment free from hazards that could cause injury and pain such as metal, plastic, splintered wood and unsafe fencing and barriers;
- A constant supply of clean drinking water for each animal;
- Adequate parasitic treatment or control;
- Access to adequate nutrition;
- Treatment for or prevention of illness, pain and disease such as eye infection and salmonella, thrush, diarrhoea, giardia, campylobacter;
- Routine dental care;
- Also, routine farrier/hoof/nail trimming and attention;
- Treatment or veterinary attention for lameness;
- A clean, comfortable, dry resting place;
- Adequate space for animals that need to be apart from each other.
He also pleaded guilty to several charges concerning the disposal of animal by-products. Officers found bones and skeletons at the farm, buried among muck or wrapped in rugs.
More than 200 animals were found at the farm
Officers discovered a total of 204 animals at the site. While three were put down at the scene, the rest (201) were taken for appropriate care.
These included 129 horses and donkeys, 59 dogs, three alpacas, five goats, four chickens and one duck.
Some of the sickest animals received immediate veterinary care, while others were taken for treatment nearby.
100 staff, 12 hours
SOU case officer Kirsty Withnall said:
“In total, there were 100 staff from different agencies working on the case to help round up the animals.”
“It took almost 12 hours on the day to assess all of the animals, load them into horseboxes and animal ambulances, and move them off-site.”
“We had to have a plan in place that would allow us to remove a large number of animals on the day.”
“We hoped that wouldn’t be necessary and had no idea what action would be taken until vets were able to assess all of the animals.”
Despite urgent veterinary treatment, 14 weak, emaciated horses, had serious worm burdens and suffered from cyathostominosis died or were put down on veterinary advice.
Despite the charities’ best efforts to save them, two dogs and one goat also had to be put down. One chicken and one duck died.
Twenty foals were born in charity care – although two were stillborn – as well as six goat kids, one alpaca and nine puppies, although two died after birth.
Owner disqualified from keeping animals for life
PC Hollie Iribar, Surrey Police, said she has witnessed some “devasting acts” of animal cruelty over the years. However, she told the court that “this was one of the most difficult cases I have seen”.
“I am very glad that this heart-breaking case has seen a resolution in the courts and that the animals involved were rescued and given a second chance at a happy and healthy life.”
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