A mother and son have been sentenced for a number of animal welfare offences related to two donkeys and a mule kept in unsuitable conditions.

The mother was found guilty after a trial hearing at Beverley Magistrates’ Court on 3 August. The seven offences related to two donkeys called Dora and Daisy and a mule named Ebony.

Her son pleaded guilty to four animal welfare offences relating to the same animals at the beginning of the trial.

Sentencing took place at Hull Magistrates’ Court on Monday, 11 October.

The pair kept Dora, Daisy and Ebony in a field full of ragwort - a plant toxic to equines. Loose barbed wire and fallen wire netting, which posed the risk of injury or entanglement, also littered the field.

Inadequate shelter in Daisy and Dora's field

Inadequate shelter in the animals' field (credit: RSPCA)

An old, disused work container which the animals had access to was completely unsuitable as a shelter - it was too small and had sharp edges and canvas straps still attached inside, which the animals could have become caught on.

The animals also did not have access to any hard standing within their living environment. All donkeys need to have access to hard standing to protect their feet from wet and muddy conditions and to prevent infections.

Their water supply was wholly inadequate and dirty, with an accumulation of algae.

All three animals had overgrown teeth and hooves and required dental and farrier treatment.

Inspector Thomas Hutton, who led the investigation for the RSPCA, said: “Police forced entry to the field using bolt cutters and gave permission for myself, staff from The Donkey Sanctuary and an independent vet to enter the field and examine the animals and their environment.

“An independent vet examined each animal and found Dora was suffering from laminitis, and Ebony was suffering from ulceration to the soft tissues of her mouth from inadequate dental care that would have caused her discomfort when eating. She advised the animals should be removed from the site as they were either suffering or likely to suffer if they remained. Police took the animals into possession, passing them into the RSPCA’s care.”

The animals were transported to a nearby holding base funded by The Donkey Sanctuary, where they received urgent dental and farrier treatment.

Alongside the lifetime disqualification from keeping equines, which cannot be appealed for ten years, the mother was sentenced to 20 weeks’ imprisonment, suspended for two years and ordered to pay £3,000 costs.

The son was disqualified from keeping equines for 10 years, which cannot be appealed for five years and was sentenced to 12 weeks’ imprisonment, suspended for 18 months and ordered to pay £700 costs.

Following the sentencing hearing, Inspector Hutton said, “Pet owners have a legal responsibility to ensure their animals do not suffer and that their needs are met. Despite advice from The Donkey Sanctuary, sadly the Shears failed in their duty towards their animals”.

Hannah Bryer, Head of Welfare at The Donkey Sanctuary, added: “Owning donkeys and mules is a hugely rewarding experience and a wonderful privilege. However, they require caring and compassionate management to ensure they lead healthy and enriched lives.

“We had previously attended this location alongside the RSPCA and engaged with the owners regarding Ebony and another donkey. We discussed the changes that needed to be made to ensure the environment was safe and suitable for the animals.

“On a repeat visit, we found Ebony with Daisy and Dora living at the same location that was detrimental to their welfare, it was clear our advice had not been followed. We worked with the RSPCA to safeguard their welfare.”

Sadly, Ebony was put to sleep on veterinary advice due to her ongoing suffering from her dental issues. Dora and Daisy have responded well to treatment, but due to their age and ongoing care needs, they may need to remain in The Donkey Sanctuary care for the rest of their lives.

At the sentencing hearing, the court issued a deprivation order for the ownership of the donkeys to be handed over to the RSPCA.

The defendants have 21 days to appeal this. After the 21 days have passed, subject to no appeals, the RSCPA will hand over the care of the animals to The Donkey Sanctuary.