The Donkey Sanctuary has taken 29 donkeys into its care following a joint investigation with RSPCA, Blackpool Council and Lancashire Constabulary, which resulted in guilty verdicts for their owners, a commercial operator.
Hannah Bryer, head of welfare, and Ben Hart, lead behaviourist at The Donkey Sanctuary attended the trial in court and were called to give evidence. The allegations in relation to the donkeys were of abuse and neglect.
CCTV recordings were used as evidence in court, and showed the donkeys being subjected to physical force, being slapped, punched, kicked, whipped and hit with sticks and pieces of wood.
Hannah Bryer says: “There is simply no excuse for any animal to be subjected to physical abuse. Owning donkeys is a hugely rewarding experience and a wonderful privilege, however they require caring and compassionate management to ensure they lead healthy and enriched lives.
“The footage in this case shows a series of brutal and needless attacks on the donkeys. This cruel and callous behaviour is unacceptable in any arena, but is made worse by the fact that the perpetrators were the very humans who should have been safeguarding their welfare during their working life.
“Donkeys are incredibly stoic animals so by their nature, they often hide the true extent of their suffering, however there can be no doubt that the violence inflicted on these donkeys caused them fear and distress.
“Cases like these are extremely distressing and highlight the terrible abuse some donkeys continue to face in Great Britain today.”
RSPCA inspector Amy McIntosh, who led the investigation, said: "The footage of the donkeys being assaulted is shocking and appalling particularly the flying kick on the donkey Bruce.
"Their terrible treatment is compounded by the fact that the people inflicting it were making money from them.
"These donkeys are such lovely, docile and friendly animals whose wonderful nature was evident in the fact that they were being worked with children on the beach every day.
"They were being presented to the public as being well looked after but behind the scenes were being cruelly treated and abused and the conditions they were living in were filthy.
"The witnesses in this case, who shot the footage, were fantastic. They were so brave to come forward given the repercussions to them personally of doing so and we're extremely grateful to them. They have changed these animals' lives."
Happily with the support of vets, farriers and grooms, the condition of these donkeys has improved, but they will need on going care and treatment. Two of the 29 donkeys were put to sleep on the advice of a specialist equine veterinary surgeon due to on-going health issues.