Three people who ran donkey rides on Blackpool beach have been banned from keeping all animals for three years after “shocking” footage was captured of donkeys being assaulted.
The RSPCA attended Fir Tree Farm House, Harbour Lane, Salwick on 25 September 2017 after receiving footage from concerned members of the public of a “series of brutal and needless attacks” on donkeys. At the property, inspectors found 29 donkeys and 15 Pomeranian dogs living in ”filthy” conditions. Two of the donkeys were put down on vet’s advice, owing to ongoing health issues.
At Blackpool Magistrates’ Court on 24 September, 43-year-old Andrew Lomas, of no fixed abode, pleaded guilty to two charges under the Animal Welfare Act. He was convicted of a further 10 charges and found not guilty of one in relation to donkeys in his care. He was sentenced to 14 weeks in custody, suspended for 12 months, and ordered to carry out 150 hours of unpaid work and pay £385 costs.
Suzzana Taylor, 48, no fixed abode, pleaded guilty to eight welfare charges, was convicted of 13 and found not guilty of two in relation to donkeys and Pomeranian dogs in her care. She was sentenced to 14 weeks in custody, suspended for 12 months, and ordered to do 15 rehabilitation activity requirement days. She must also pay a £100 fine, £385 costs and a £115 victim surcharge.
Grace Taylor, 18, of no fixed abode, was convicted of 13 welfare charges and found not guilty of two in relation to donkeys and Pomeranian dogs in her care. She was sentenced to a 12-month community order and ordered to do 30 rehabilitation activity requirement days, 150 hours of unpaid work and pay costs of £415.
The court heard Grace Taylor was 17 at the time, had lost good character and had a troubled background with mental health issues. It was heard that the local authority had had no issue with Suzzanna Taylor’s donkey licence for years and credit was given for her guilty pleas at the beginning of the trial. Her charity work and a character witness was taken into account. Suzzanna Taylor crossed the custody threshold, but the sentence was suspended taking into account her caring commitments and good character.
RSPCA inspector Amy McIntosh, who lead 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 dogs were living in wet and muddy conditions without adequate shelter, and had untreated bite wounds from where they’d been fighting with each other.
“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.”
Donkey Sanctuary head of welfare Hannah Bryer said: “Cases like these are extremely distressing and highlight the terrible abuse some donkeys continue to face in Great Britain today.
“There is simply no excuse for any animal to be subjected to physical abuse. 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.
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“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. While The Donkey Sanctuary does not endorse or encourage the use of donkeys in any form of entertainment we do recognise that they are used for a variety of commercial activities, such as beach rides. Wherever donkeys are used in these activities, it is vital that their welfare remains protected at all times.
“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. The sentences and disqualification orders imposed by the court serves to protect the welfare of donkeys in the future.”
The RSPCA said the animals not previously signed over, will now be able to be permanently adopted.
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