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Euthanasia ‘may be the only option’ for donkey found suffering on waste site

The owner of a donkey suffering with irreversible hoof problems told welfare inspectors the animal had been like that for 10 years.

Benjamin Peter Marshall, 44, of New Street, Southowram, Halifax, was sentenced at Bradford Magistrates’ Court on 19 January. He pleaded guilty to three charges; causing unnecessary suffering to a donkey called Jemimah between 5 September and 5 November 2019, failing to meet the needs of Jemimah, and failing to meet the needs of a donkey called Snowball on or before 5 November 2019.

A spokesman for the RSPCA said Marshall had previously failed to comply with advice from the RSPCA and the Donkey Sanctuary. A joint investigation was launched by the charities after they found the basic welfare needs of Jemimah and Snowball were not being met and they needed urgent veterinary and farrier treatment.

“RSPCA inspector Rebecca Goulding and two welfare advisers from the Donkey Sanctuary discovered the donkeys living on a waste site that contained many dangerous objects. The area was littered with broken plastic, wood, scrap metal, dumped wooden pallets and rolls of metal fencing among other rubbish,” said the spokesman.

“There was also a broken trailer that had multiple sharp edges, and the area was strewn with broken metal and glass. The inspector found that there was no area of the field that was safe or suitable for the donkeys.”

The spokesman said the grass was sparse and the forage provided was wet and covered in mud and faeces.

“The owner advised the donkeys had access to water in a dustbin, but the water level was too low down for the donkeys to reach,” he said. “Their shelter was dirty and deep in mud and faeces and meant the donkeys had no hard standing.”

A vet assessed the donkeys and found that Jemimah was extremely lame with laminitis.

“Jemimah had an overgrown hoof and was in a lot of pain. Marshall told the vet ‘the donkey had been like that for 10 years and that it was fine’,” said the spokesman.

“Snowball’s feet were overgrown and starting to curl upwards. She had thrush and severe white line disease in all four of her feet. Both donkeys were also found to have extremely sharp teeth and there was no evidence of previous dental work.”

The spokesman said the vet recommended Jemimah and Snowball be removed from the site, and West Yorkshire Police took them into possession. They were passed into the RSPCA’s care, and transported to a Donkey Sanctuary-funded holding base to receive specialist care and start their rehabilitation.

“More than a year has passed since Snowball and Jemimah were rescued and although the Donkey Sanctuary has done all it can to keep Jemimah comfortable during her rehabilitation, her irreversible chronic hoof condition can only be managed,” said the spokesman.

“Jemimah’s quality of life is being closely monitored and should her condition deteriorate, we will have to seriously consider the option of euthanasia as the last kind decision we make for her,” added Donkey Sanctuary welfare adviser Keira Benham. “We have prepared for this possibility by introducing Snowball and Jemimah to another donkey called Dolly, who is of a similar age, which mitigates the risk of Snowball suffering from stress if she were to lose her companion.”

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In mitigation the court heard Marshall should be given credit for his guilty plea and he had now agreed to sign Snowball over the RSPCA. Jemimah was signed over at an earlier date.

The magistrates stated this was a serious case and Jemimah had suffered significantly. They two donkeys had not been provided with water, adequate vet treatment or farrier care and in short the donkeys’ needs were not met.

Marshall was banned from keeping equines for five years. He was given an 18-month community order with 150 hours of unpaid work, and must pay £350 costs and a £90 victim surcharge.

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