Seven donkeys have been rescued through a joint operation between the RSPCA, The Donkey Sanctuary and Cumbria Police.

A man and woman have been disqualified from keeping equines following a prosecution brought by the RSPCA relating to the equines.

Credit: RSPCA

Ivan Ballatyne and Jeannie Winskill both of Southwaite, Carlisle were sentenced at Carlisle Magistrates’ Court on 11 January.

The pair, who had previously failed to comply with advice from both the RSPCA and The Donkey Sanctuary, pleaded guilty to animal welfare offences on the morning their trial was due to take place.

The RSPCA launched an investigation after The Donkey Sanctuary found that the basic welfare needs of the animals were not being met and that some of the donkeys needed urgent veterinary and farriery treatment.

“Donkeys with overgrown hooves were seen struggling to walk through the deep mud – they seemed uncomfortable as they moved,” said Deputy Chief Inspector Carl Larsson.

Credit: RSPCA

“There was a lack of shelter, hard standing and anywhere clean and dry for the animals to rest.

“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 rain water – they appeared not to have been mucked out in a long time.

“There was also a muck heap which had hay on the top that two horses and the donkeys were feeding from.

“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. An independent vet certified such was his suffering he sadly needed to be put to sleep immediately in his own interest.”

Credit: RSPCA

Three welfare advisers from The Donkey Sanctuary were present on the day of the rescue, along with Suzanne Green, a veterinary surgeon from Greenway Equine Veterinary Services and police officers from Cumbria Police.

Dr Green examined the remaining animals – some of the donkeys had lice and were struggling to walk due to their overgrown hooves – and found that they were very lame.

She decided all of the equines should be taken into possession by police and they were taken to a place of safety.

The donkeys were transported to a Donkey Sanctuary-funded holding base where they were given much-needed farrier, dental and veterinary care.

Ownership of the donkeys has now been given to The Donkey Sanctuary. Some will need life-long care due to the extent of their neglect, while others may be considered for the charity’s rehoming scheme in the future.

Credit: The Donkey Sanctuary

Both Ballantyne and Winskill pleaded guilty to causing unnecessary suffering to seven donkeys by failing to address their overgrown feet and resulting lameness. They also plead guilty to failing to meet the needs of 17 equines.

Winskill pleaded guilty to a third charge of causing unnecessary suffering to a Shetland pony by failing to address its overgrown feet and lameness.

In court, mitigation was given that neither of the defendants had any previous convictions.

The judge imposed a curfew order of 16 weeks on Ballantyne while Winskill was sentenced to 15 Rehabilitation Activity Requirement days, a 12-week curfew order and both were ordered to pay £750 costs.

“We know that taking care of donkeys is a hugely rewarding experience, and it really is a privilege to own such endearing animals, but it comes with great responsibility,” said Hannah Bryer, Head of Welfare at The Donkey Sanctuary, following the sentencing hearing.

“Donkeys require caring and compassionate management to ensure they lead healthy and enriched lives.

Credit: The Donkey Sanctuary

“Sadly situations like this are not uncommon. Lack of appropriate hoof care is still one of the most common welfare issues faced by donkeys in the UK today.

“Our welfare team works throughout Great Britain to offer advice and information about the easy steps that can be taken to avoid this type of suffering.”