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‘No justification’ for ‘worst case of neglect’ seen by welfare inspector

Two donkeys have been put down in the “worst case of neglect” a welfare inspector has seen.

Albert Sauer, 85, of Tangymoil, Kilkenzie, near Campbeltown, pleaded guilty to causing unnecessary suffering under the Animal Welfare Act to eight donkeys when he appeared at Campbeltown Sheriff Court last month.

On 26 March 2019 two Scottish SPCA inspectors attended the defendant’s farm after a member of the public raised concerns about neglect. The inspectors were shown five male donkeys and six females, who were being kept in fields with scrap metal, debris and no shelter.

“Most of them had feet so badly deformed they struggled to walk,” said an SSPCA spokesman. “Some were underweight and had bald patches on their coat. Sauer advised the inspectors the donkeys had not seen a vet for several years.”

The spokesman said the inspectors later returned with Hannah Bryer, head of welfare at the Donkey Sanctuary, two field officers from World Horse Welfare, and vet Suzanne Green of Greenway Equine Veterinary Services. It was concluded the hooves had become so overgrown that some of the donkeys would be unable to bear weight again. The donkeys were also found to be suffering with lice and a worm burden.

“This is without a doubt the worst case of equine neglect I’ve come across,” said SSPCA inspector Yvonne Inglis, who led the investigation.

“Eight of the donkeys had severely overgrown feet that only developed because they had gone untreated for a prolonged period of time. All it would have taken to save these donkeys from months of pain and suffering was regular foot trimming. The state of the hooves led to severe lameness and two having to be put down.”

Ms Inglis said there was “no justification” for allowing the health of the donkeys to deteriorate to that point.

“Thankfully for the other donkeys involved, the Donkey Sanctuary stepped in to offer support and have been providing them with care and treatment in the right environment,” she said. “They are all in a much better, happier place now and we’re proud to work with our welfare partners to do the best we can by every animal we rescue.”

Ms Bryer added cases like these are “extremely distressing” and highlight the “terrible neglect” some donkeys continuing to experience in the UK.

“Owning donkeys is a hugely rewarding experience and a wonderful privilege,” she said. “Donkeys require caring and compassionate management to ensure they lead healthy and enriched lives. They are incredibly stoic animals by their nature, often the true extent of their suffering is misunderstood, however there is no doubt in this case that the suffering and pain endured by these donkeys would have been noticeable to anyone.

“It has been a long process to return the nine donkeys back to full health. All of them required special diets to build their weight back up and they also required farriery and dental treatment.”

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Ms Breyer said the group are now getting used to being handled and will continue to receive the highest level of care and attention they deserve.

In mitigation the court heard Sauer was a caring man who was upset by what happened. He had difficulty in arranging a farrier to attend and believed he was providing care for the donkeys.

He will be sentenced on 15 October.

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