Ivan Ballantyne, 76, and Jeannie Winskill, 44, of Southwaite, Carlisle, were sentenced at Carlisle Magistrates’ Court on 11 January. The pair pleaded guilty to two charges; allowing seven donkeys to suffer and failing to meet the needs of 17 equines (a Shetland pony, two cobs and 14 donkeys) between 4 January and 4 February 2020. Winskill also pleaded guilty to causing unnecessary suffering to the Shetland pony.
An RSPCA spokesman told H&H that following concerns raised by members of the public, the Donkey Sanctuary attended the property in August 2019. Return visits were made in December 2019 and January 2020 but the pair failed to comply with welfare advice given.
An RSPCA investigation was launched after the Donkey Sanctuary found the basic welfare needs of the animals were not being met, and some of the donkeys needed urgent veterinary and farriery treatment. On 4 February 2020, the charities attended the property with a vet, and officers from Cumbria Police.
“Donkeys with overgrown hooves were seen struggling to walk through the deep mud – they seemed uncomfortable as they moved. There was a lack of shelter, hard standing and anywhere clean and dry for the animals to rest,” said RSPCA deputy chief inspector Carl Larsson.
“The sheds provided were too small and unsanitary, a dead rat was seen within the soiled straw at the back of one. Straw put down for the animals was sodden with faeces, urine and presumably rainwater – they appeared not to have been mucked out in a long time. There was also a muck heap that had hay on the top, which two horses and the donkeys were feeding from.”
Mr Larsson said a Shetland pony was found confined in a “garden shed”.
“He barely had room to turn around. It was difficult to watch as the poor animal reluctantly struggled to walk and appeared to be in pain with every step,” he said.
“An independent vet certified such was his suffering he sadly needed to be put to sleep immediately in his own interest.”
The RSPCA spokesman said when the vet examined the remaining animals, she found some of the donkeys had lice, were very lame and were struggling to walk due to overgrown hooves. The equines were removed by the police and the donkeys were taken to a Donkey Sanctuary holding base where they received farriery and veterinary care. The two cobs were taken into the care of the RSPCA and it is hoped they will be rehomed in future.
“The donkeys have since all improved considerably, but some of their journeys to full recovery will be long. Ownership of the donkeys will now be given to the Donkey Sanctuary,” said the RSPCA spokesman.
“Some will need lifelong care due to the extent of their neglect, while others may be considered for the charity’s rehoming scheme in the future.”
The Donkey Sanctuary’s head of welfare Hannah Bryer said sadly situations like this are not uncommon.
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“Lack of appropriate hoof care is still one of the most common welfare issues faced by donkeys in the UK today,” she said.
“Our welfare team works throughout Britain to offer advice and information about the easy steps that can be taken to avoid this type of suffering.”
In mitigation the court heard that neither defendant had any previous convictions. Ballantye received a 16-week curfew order, and Winskill was sentenced to 15 rehabilitation activity requirement days and a 12-week curfew order. They were banned from keeping equines for 10 years and must each pay £750 costs.
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