Posted on: 18 October 2018
A couple who ran a small holding in Bradworthy where horses, cattle and pigs were kept in squalid conditions and regularly denied access to fresh water and feed have been banned from keeping animals for ten years following an investigation by Devon, Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards and the RSPCA.
Rebecca Tucker, 46, of Bradworthy, and Luke Morley, 37, of Leicester, pleaded guilty to a range of charges under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 and the Welfare of Farmed Animals (England) Regulations 2007.
Appearing at Exeter Magistrates Court, Ms Tucker was sentenced to 17 weeks imprisonment for each offence to be served concurrently and suspended for 12 months. She is also required to carry out 180 hours unpaid community work and pays costs of £120 to both Devon County Council and the RSPCA as well as a £150 victim surcharge.
Mr Morley was sentenced to 12 weeks imprisonment for each offence to be served concurrently and suspended for 12 months. He is also required to carry out 120 hours unpaid community work and pays costs of £120 to both Devon County Council and the RSPCA as well as a £150 victim surcharge.
Trading Standards Officers, Animal and Plant Health Agency vets and RSPCA inspectors were called to the pair’s premises at various times during December 2017 and January 2018 and found animals being kept in poor conditions and a state of neglect.
On one occasion a vet found 14 cattle in a newly built shed with no dry lying or bedding or food. There was also a small area adjacent where pigs were housed, and they had no access to water.
On another day a vet arrived at the farm mid-morning to find the animals had not yet received any attention such as food and water that day.
When Trading Standards Officers visited they found 11 horses in a field with no suitable dry area for them to lie down in and they had no supplementary food. There was also a collapsed five bar gate, collapsed fencing and collapsing netting in the field posing dangers of sharp metal edges and nails and an amount of plastic and burnt rubbish in the area.
Some of the horses were in such a bad state that the pair were found to have caused them “unnecessary suffering” and so the RSPCA took possession of them.
During the hot sunny period in May vets were concerned about the lack of food, water and adequate shelter for the pigs – sunburn is a significant problem for pigs. Trading Standards Officers returned to monitor the welfare of the animals and found further issues concerning diet, water and environment and reported their findings and subsequent advice to Ms Tucker and Mr Morely both verbally and in writing.
A further visit in June found eight pigs with a lack of dry bedding and a Belgian blue calf suffering from hair loss, scabs and a significant untreated lice infestation.
Despite repeated advice and intervention, Ms Tucker and Mr Morley made only temporary improvements, if any, in caring for their animals.
At the time of the offences it is understood that Ms Tucker was the owner of the farming business and employed Mr Morley to feed and care for the animals.
The Judge commented that Ms Tucker “shirked responsibility” and put blame of the animals’ state on Mr Morley, even though extensive advice had been provided to both by the inspectors.
Stephen Gardiner, Interventions Manager for Devon, Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards Service, said:
“The welfare legislation for animals sets out very clearly the acceptable standards that those keeping animals must meet.
“Despite the efforts of Trading Standards Officers, Animal and Plant Health Agency vets and RSPCA inspectors to work with Ms Tucker and Mr Morley to improve the living conditions of their animals, we continued to find them left with no food or water, without adequate shelter and in a poor state of health.
“Thankfully, having to take this kind of legal action is rare, and most farmers and smallholders take the welfare of their animals very seriously.
“Our staff work hard to try to assist and support farmers in relation to animal care, but when advice is repeatedly ignored we will take appropriate action and work with partners to prosecute those responsible.”