A man from Halifax has been disqualified from keeping equines following a prosecution brought by the RSPCA. Jemimah and Snowball were rescued from their unsuitable environment and rehomed to The Donkey Sanctuary.

Benjamin Peter Marshall (DOB 23/05/1977) of New Street, Southowram, Halifax was sentenced at Bradford Magistrates Court on Tuesday 19 January.

Marshall, who had previously failed to comply with advice from both the RSPCA and The Donkey Sanctuary, pleaded guilty to three animal welfare offences, on the morning his trial was due to take place.

These offences included the unnecessary suffering to 13-year-old Jemimah, by failing to meet her basic welfare needs and not seeking veterinary treatment for laminitis and adequate dental care.

The third offence related to a second donkey, four-year-old, Snowball, daughter of Jemimah. Again, her basic welfare needs were not being met; including the failure to provide continuous access to a clean supply of fresh water and a suitable and safe environment to live in. Marshall also failed to provide Snowball with adequate foot care.

The RSPCA launched a joint investigation with The Donkey Sanctuary, after they found the basic welfare needs of the animals were not being met and the donkeys needed urgent veterinary and farriery treatment.

RSPCA Inspector Rebecca Goulding and two welfare advisers from The Donkey Sanctuary discovered the donkeys living on a waste site that contained many dangerous objects. The area was littered with broken plastic, wood, scrap metal, dumped wooden pallets and rolls of metal fencing among other rubbish. There was also a broken trailer that had multiple sharp edges on it and the area was strewn with broken metal and glass. She found that there was no area of the field that was safe or suitable for the donkeys.

The grass cover was sparse and the forage foraging provided for the two donkeys was wet and covered in mud and faeces.

The owner advised the donkeys had access to water in a dustbin, but the water level was too low down for the donkeys to reach. Their shelter was dirty and deep in mud and faeces and meant the donkeys had no hardstanding.

Inspector Goulding said: "Donkeys require shelter at all times as, unlike horses, their coats are not well adapted to our climate and so they require shelter from the weather, but especially the rain, wind and cold."

Vet Dr Suzanne Green from Greenway Equine Veterinary Services, was called to assess the donkeys' conditions and found that Jemimah was extremely lame with laminitis. She had an overgrown foot and was in a lot of pain. Marshall told the vet; "...the donkey had been like that for 10 years and that it was fine".

Snowball's feet were overgrown and starting to curl upwards. She had thrush and severe white line disease in all four of her feet.

Both donkeys were also found to have extremely sharp teeth and there was no evidence of previous dental work having been done.

The vet recommended the donkeys were removed from the site and West Yorkshire Police took them into possession, passing them into the RSPCA's care. The donkeys were transported to a Donkey Sanctuary funded holding base so they could receive specialist care and start their rehabilitation.

In mitigation, the court heard that Marshall should be given credit for his guilty plea and he had now agreed to sign Snowball over to the RSPCA. Jeminah had been signed over at an earlier date.

The Magistrates stated this was a serious case and that Jemimah had suffered significantly. The two donkeys had not been provided with water, adequate vet treatment or farrier care and, in short, the donkeys' needs were not met.

In addition to the five-year disqualification from keeping donkeys, magistrates sentenced Marshall to an 18-month community order with 150 hours of unpaid work in the community and ordered him to pay £350 costs and a victim surcharge of £90.

Following the sentencing hearing Hannah Bryer, Head of Welfare at The Donkey Sanctuary, said: "We know that taking care of donkeys is a hugely rewarding experience, and it really is a privilege

to own such endearing animals, but it comes with great responsibility. Donkeys require caring and compassionate management to ensure they lead healthy and enriched lives.

"Sadly situations like this are not uncommon. Lack of appropriate hoof care is still one of the most common welfare issues faced by donkeys in the UK today. Our welfare team works throughout Great Britain to offer advice and information about the easy steps that can be taken to avoid this type of suffering."

More than a year has passed since Snowball and Jemima were rescued and although The Donkey Sanctuary has done all it can to keep Jemimah comfortable during her rehabilitation, her irreversible chronic hoof condition can only be managed.

Keira Benham, Donkey Welfare Adviser from The Donkey Sanctuary, said: "Jemimah's quality of life is being closely monitored and should her condition deteriorate, we will have to seriously consider the option of euthanasia as the last kind decision we make for her. Photo credit: The Donkey Sanctuary

"We have prepared for this possibility by introducing Snowball and Jemimah to another donkey called Dolly, who is of a similar age, which mitigates the risk of Snowball suffering from stress if she were to lose her companion mum."

Ends.

Notes to Editors

Before and after photographs are available to download.

Marshall was convicted of:

  1. That between 5 September 2019 and 5 November 2019 at Chapel Lane, Southowram, Halifax, you did cause unnecessary suffering to a certain animal, namely a grey female donkey called Jemimah, by failing to provide veterinary treatment for laminitis and you knew or ought reasonably to have known that your failure to act would have that effect or be likely to do so, contrary to Section 4, Subsection 1 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006.
  2. On and before 5 November 2019 at Chapel Lane, Southowram, Halifax, you did not take such steps as were reasonable in all the circumstances to ensure that the needs of an animal, namely a grey female donkey called Jemimah, for which you were responsible,were met to the extent required by good practice by one or a combination of:
    Not providing a suitable and safe environment for the animal
    Not providing a continuous access to a clean supply of fresh water
    Not providing adequate dental care
    contrary to Section 9, Subsection 1 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006.
  3. On and before 5 November 2019 at Chapel Lane, Southowram, Halifax, you did not take such steps as were reasonable in all the circumstances to ensure that the needs of an animal, namely a grey female donkey called Snowball, for which you were responsible,were met to the extent required by good practice by one or a combination of:
    Not providing a suitable and safe environment for the animal
    Not providing a continuous access to a clean supply of fresh water
    Not providing adequate dental care
    Not providing adequate foot care
    contrary to Section 9, Subsection 1 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006.

The Donkey Sanctuary is the world's largest equine welfare charity. Our vision is a world where donkeys and mules live free from suffering and their contribution to humanity is fully valued. We run 10 sanctuaries around the UK and Europe, giving lifelong care to more than 7,000 donkeys and mules. Our hospital treats sick donkeys and trains vets both nationwide and worldwide. Our donkey-facilitated learning programme helps vulnerable children and adults develop life skills by connecting with donkeys on an emotional and physical level. The charity operates programmes worldwide for animals working in agriculture, industry and transportation, and those used in the production of meat and skin.