The owner of two donkeys for whom a single step would have been “agony” has been banned from keeping donkeys for life.

Farmer Mark Barber, of Blore, Ashbourne, Derbyshire, pleaded guilty to causing unnecessary suffering to the two jennys, at Derby Magistrates’ Court on 15 February.

The 40-year-old admitted failing to seek vital treatment for the pair.

The RSPCA and the Donkey Sanctuary found the animals, Jessica and Jasmine, with hooves so overgrown they were unable to walk normally.

“These two beautiful donkeys were left to suffer because Mr Barber failed to arrange veterinary or farrier treatment,” said RSPCA inspector Charlotte Melvin,

“After a concerned member of the public called us about the state of two donkeys they’d seen on the Barbers’ farm, I called Hannah Bryer, head of welfare at the Donkey Sanctuary, to help and when we arrived we were shocked at what we saw.

“Both donkeys, Jessica and Jasmine, were out in a field and their hooves were so long we could barely coax them to take a few steps – they were in agony.

“Mr Barber had left Jessica and Jasmine without any farriery or veterinary care for a really long time, even though it was clear that they were suffering.

“Thankfully, after we called a vet who certified their suffering immediately, Mr Barber signed the donkeys into our care and after carefully loading them into the horsebox, they were taken straight to the Donkey Sanctuary to receive the expert care they so desperately needed.”

The pair were taken to the Donkey Sanctuary in Buxton, where Jessica was found to have severe sarcoids on her legs and belly.

Mr Barber was not charged with any offence relating to the sarcoids, but her condition was so serious, a veterinary specialist advised that she would not recover and she was put to sleep.

Jasmine has recovered and is still with the sanctuary in Devon.

Ms Bryer, head of welfare at the Donkey Sanctuary, said: “Cases like this are incredibly sad as they can be so easily avoided.

“We are grateful for the combined efforts of the RSPCA, Derbyshire Police and all involved in investigating this case. The disqualification order serves to protect the welfare of donkeys in the future, but of course the most important outcome is that Jasmine is now fit and well, with a safe and secure future ahead of her.”

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Barber was fined £383 and ordered to pay £500 costs and a £38 victim surcharge. He was also disqualified from keeping donkeys for life.

He was said to be a hard-working farmer, with no previous convictions and family commitments.

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