A man has been sentenced to 14 months in prison and a lifetime ban on owning animals after a Scottish SPCA investigation.
Gary Stevens was found guilty of failing to provide adequate care for a donkey and Shetland pony in his care at Peterhead Sheriff Court on 10 September. Stevens, 53, of Hallmoss Farm, Inverugie in Peterhead, pled guilty to causing unnecessary suffering to the Shetland pony under Section 19 of the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006 and for failing to ensure the welfare of the donkey in his care under section 24 of the Act.
For his offences, Stevens was handed the maximum sentence for each charge, totalling 18 months’ imprisonment, which was reduced to 14 because of the guilty plea. Last week, the Scottish Government announced plans to increase the maximum sentence for animal cruelty to five years’ imprisonment.
The Scottish SPCA visited Hallmoss Farm in June 2018 after welfare concerns were raised to the charity’s animal helpline.
Scottish SPCA inspector Fiona McKenzie said: “In my 12 years as a Scottish SPCA inspector, this is one of the worst cases I’ve ever dealt with and I’ve never seen such a disregard for animal welfare. The vet in attendance said the state of Itsy, the Shetland pony, was the most extreme case he’d come across in 34 years of practising.
“We made every attempt to work constructively with Stevens and his family, including issuing statutory care notices to improve the welfare of their animals. They rebuffed this offer of support and were uncooperative. Ultimately, they attempted to hide the animals under the guise of them having been rehomed. This left us with no choice but to make a report to the Procurator Fiscal. From this investigation we took ownership of over 45 animals including horses, pigs, sheep, lambs, cats, dogs and terrapins.”
The Scottish SPCA investigated further after the animals went missing and found them at another address, where more ponies, which weren’t at the farm during the initial visit, were found. Inspector McKenzie discovered a Shetland pony, known as Itsy, which hadn’t been seen previously.
It was evident she had severe issues, including being abnormally small and her back end looked weak and deformed. Her front feet were so badly deformed that they were deemed incorrectable by the vet. Her poor body condition was attributed to pain and stress. The very sad decision was made that the kindest thing to do was to put her to sleep. This was done immediately at the location so she wouldn't be caused any further suffering.
A donkey that had gone missing from Hallmoss Farm was also discovered at the second address. She had not received any qualified corrective farriery or been seen by a vet as specified under the care notice. She was removed to ensure her welfare as being kept in this environment would cause her further suffering and stress. She was taken to be cared for at the Scottish SPCA Aberdeenshire Animal Rescue and Rehoming Centre where she received care for a multitude of issues including corrective hoof trimming, dental treatment and medicated baths for a skin condition. She made a full recovered and was successfully rehomed.
Inspector McKenzie added: “We worked closely with Aberdeenshire Council’s Animal Health and Welfare team who took their own case to the Procurator Fiscal.
“We are very pleased the Sherriff exercised the maximum punishment available to Stevens. We hope this will act as a deterrent to others and be just one of many examples of more consistent sentencing for those who are cruel to animals.”