Leeds man handed lifetime animal ban after 'suffering' donkeys found with lice infestation

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A man from Leeds has been banned from keeping animals for life after being convicted of three offences against two donkeys in his care.

James Garner Smith, 68, was handed the lifetime disqualification at the sentencing at Harrogate Magistrates’ Court on Thursday.

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Smith, of Westfield Avenue, Yeadon, was found guilty in his absence at a previous hearing of causing unnecessary suffering to two donkeys being kept at a field off West Field Lane, Arkendale, Harrogate.

A member of the public contacted The Donkey Sanctuary, an animal welfare charity, which visited the pair and then raised their concerns with the RSPCA.

Notices were left at the field where the animals were living on three occasions, but the donkeys' circumstances remained unchanged and they were seized by police on veterinary advice in June 2017.

The animals - a brown donkey and a grey donkey called Rita and Sue - have been looked after by The Donkey Sanctuary pending the outcome of the case.

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Speaking after the sentencing, RSPCA inspector Claire Mitchell said: “It should have been obvious that these donkeys were suffering.

“All four hooves on both of the donkeys were very overgrown and they were finding it difficult to walk as a result.

“They had a lice infestation and there was no drinkable water available to them.”

As well as the lifetime disqualification, which can be appealed after five years, Smith was deprived of the donkeys, which will now be permanently cared for by The Donkey Sanctuary.

He was also sentenced to a four-month community order, and ordered to pay costs of £750 plus an £85 victim surcharge.

Smith was previously found guilty of failing to provide adequate hoof care for the donkeys, failing to provide proper and necessary lice treatment and failing to meet their needs by not supplying them with a supply of fresh and clean drinking water.

Hannah Bryer, head of welfare at The Donkey Sanctuary, said: “Happily with the support of vets, farriers and grooms, both donkeys have made a full recovery. One of the donkeys was very shy and nervous of people when she first came to us but her grooms have been working hard to improve her confidence and her trust in humans is slowly growing.

“Owning donkeys can be a hugely rewarding experience and a wonderful privilege, however they require caring and compassionate management to ensure they lead healthy and enriched lives. Sadly, despite being easy to remedy, lack of appropriate hoof care remains one of the most common welfare issues faced by donkeys in Great Britain today.

“We are grateful to the combined efforts of the RSPCA, North Yorkshire Police and all involved in investigating this case. The disqualification order imposed by the court serves to protect the welfare of donkeys in the future and thanks to the generosity of our supporters, we are pleased to provide both donkeys with a safe and secure future.”

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