A couple from Gomersal, West Yorkshire have been disqualified from keeping equines for life after five donkeys and three ponies were rescued following a joint investigation by The Donkey Sanctuary, World Horse Welfare, the RSPCA and West Yorkshire Police. The prosecution case concluded at Kirklees Magistrates' Court on Thursday 12 January 2017 when the couple collectively pleaded guilty to six charges under the Animal Welfare Act.
The Donkey Sanctuary’s video footage shows one of the five donkeys (Timmy) having to be dug out of his stable where he was caged upon 5 feet of his own faeces. Another donkey, Rosie, was sadly put to sleep after vets were unable to control her pain. Two of the ponies were being kept in a dark stable and one had to be carried out as he was so frightened of the sunlight, having been confined to the stable his whole life and never seeing sunshine before.
Appearing at Kirklees Magistrates’ Court on 12 January, Malcolm Wood (10/08/1950) and Angela Wood (DOB unknown) of Muffit Lane, Gomersal, West Yorkshire both pleaded guilty to a number of offences under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, in a case brought in by the RSPCA.
Angela Wood, admitted causing unnecessary suffering to five donkeys by failing to provide appropriate professional farriery care for their overgrown hooves. She also accepted that she did not investigate the cause of poor body condition of one donkey and that she failed to provide two of the donkeys with a suitable environment. Her husband Malcom Wood admitted failing to provide three ponies with a suitable living environment and failing to investigate the causes of one pony’s poor body condition, following five charges against him relating to the welfare of the five donkeys that were dropped. Both defendants were disqualified from keeping any equine for life. They were each sentenced to a 6-month community order and ordered to pay £100 each towards the RSPCA prosecution costs.
The Donkey Sanctuary’s Senior Welfare Adviser, Hannah Bryer said: “A lifetime ban from keeping equines reflects the severity of this case. Sadly cases like this, highlight the continuing need to protect equines across the UK from abuse, cruelty and neglect.”
World Horse Welfare Field Officer, Sarah Tucker had been working to advise Mr and Mrs Wood on improving the standards of care for their horses but it wasn’t until a visit along with Senior Donkey Welfare Adviser Hannah Bryer and RSPCA Inspector Samantha Weston in June 2016 that the full scale of the problem became clear. Initially they were only shown three donkeys, but after hearing another bray it became apparent that there were more donkeys on the premises and after querying this with the couple, two more donkeys and three ponies were discovered.
Hannah Bryer, Senior Donkey Welfare Adviser said: “Two donkeys, named Tommy and Timmy, were housed next to each other in a barn with an adjoining door separating them. Both were standing on their own excrement with nowhere clean or comfortable to rest. The faeces were built up so high on Timmy’s side that metal bars and wood had been put across the top of his stable door which I can only imagine was to prevent him falling 5 foot to the ground below. It’s horrifying to think of how long he had been shut in what I could only describe as his own personal prison. I just wanted to get them out of there as quickly as possible.’’
An independent vet was called to assess the condition of the equines. All the donkeys and three ponies were deemed to be suffering and as such West Yorkshire Police took them into their possession, then The Donkey Sanctuary arranged for them to be transported to a place of safety.
Once the donkeys and ponies arrived at the emergency holding base they worked with a vet and farrier to alleviate their suffering. Farrier, Chris Adamson who provided expert remedial farriery for these donkeys said: ‘‘When assessing two of the donkeys, Rosie and Timmy, it was obvious from the straight blunt edges of their hooves that they had been subjected to a form of ‘do it yourself’ trimming. Hooves are complicated structures and without the right experience and training, you can cause a lot more harm than good. I can only describe the condition of these donkeys’ feet as nothing short of barbaric.’’
X-rays revealed permanent and irreversible changes in Rosie’s hooves which despite medication still left her in uncontrollable pain. The vet and farrier agreed that there was nothing they could do and that regrettably euthanasia was the only way to end her suffering.
The remaining four donkeys were given extensive care and attention to nurse them back to health.
One pony had to be euthanised on site. Two Shetland ponies were transported to the safety of World Horse Welfare’s Penny Farm Rescue and Rehoming Centre, where one was suffering from severe laminitis and despite best efforts to treat this painful disease, he sadly had to be put to sleep. The other pony, Rio, has made an amazing recovery and has now found a loving new home through World Horse Welfare’s rehoming scheme.
World Horse Welfare Field Officer Sarah Tucker said: “This was a very complicated case involving many horses, ponies and donkeys who were not receiving the levels of care they needed. The conditions some of the animals were being kept in was shocking, with one of the ponies having never seen sunlight before due to being kept in a dark stable since birth. If Mr and Mrs Wood had taken the advice given by myself and the RSPCA, it wouldn’t have needed to get to this point but unfortunately our best efforts did not have the desired results. Whilst removing animals from an owner is always a last resort, at least they are all now receiving the care they deserve and I am pleased with the overall outcomes. This shows collaborative working at its very best and I would like to say a big thank you to the RSPCA and The Donkey Sanctuary for their invaluable help and support.”
RSPCA inspector Samantha Weston said: “The state of the poor ponies was awful, but to then make the discovery of the donkeys was shocking - their hooves were some of the longest I’ve ever seen. One was in very poor body condition and several were riddled with worms. Another donkey had to be dug out of his stable because the combination of filthy bedding and faeces had built up so much, he couldn’t even be led out of the door.
“The magistrate imposed a lifetime ban on owning horses for the couple responsible, and I am delighted to hear that the ponies and donkeys that were removed are now doing well in the expert care of The Donkey Sanctuary and World Horse Welfare. This investigation was a prime example of the great rescue and investigation work that our charities carry out together.”