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Man receives suspended jail sentence for animal welfare offences

A self-employed relief farm worker has been banned from keeping animals for 10 years after being charged with a total of seven animal welfare offences.

Scott Paul Buckland, 39, Lostock Gralam, Northwich pleaded guilty to the offences and was sentenced on Monday, 20 September 2021.

The offences covered: causing unnecessary suffering to animals (91 poultry, two sheep and two rabbits), failure to dispose of 43 animal carcasses, obstruction by setting fire to evidence, failure to register as a keeper of poultry and failure to take minimum biosecurity measures required to prevent the spread of Avian Influenza.

District Judge Sanders sentenced Buckland to 18 weeks imprisonment, suspended for 18 months, 200 hours community service, disqualified him from keeping animals for 10 years, £311 costs and a victim surcharge of £128.

Initially the RSPCA were called out to anonymous reports of animal cruelty.  RSPCA officers attended the defendant’s plot and found poultry with no food, water or fresh bedding, in terrible conditions. There were also a small number of sheep and rabbits in poor conditions.

The officers noticed deceased poultry at varying stages of decomposition.  Some hens were roosting on top of dead poultry in cramped and filthy conditions.

The RSPCA contacted Cheshire West and Chester Council and an animal welfare officer then took overall charge of the investigation.  The officer called in expert vets from the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) to carry out a more detailed and systematic inspection of the conditions at the site.

The senior vet in attendance stated that it was the worst case of unnecessary suffering in respect to poultry that she had encountered and it was likely that the deaths had occurred over many weeks, possibly months.

The vet believed the birds had not been fed for many days, but more likely weeks and had unnecessarily suffered. In her opinion, considering the amount of bones all over the field, some starved to death and some died of the cold weather at that time. In her opinion the stronger birds were most likely pecking on the weaker birds when they had to compete for food and consequently the bigger healthier birds had started to eat the weaker and dead birds.

All the carcasses were collected up and double-bagged for use as evidence.  When officers returned to collect the bag, they found Buckland had appeared and was burning it on top of a pile of wood in an attempt to destroy the evidence.

He explained to the officers how he had not been able to feed his animals due to COVID.  However, he accepted that he alone was responsible for any unnecessary suffering. 

The court was shown an album of photographs showing the extent of the shocking conditions and unnecessary suffering.

The prosecutor told the court that the defendant was a “hobby farmer” and his actions were not a reflection on the farming community at large.

Councillor Karen Shore, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Environment, Highways and Strategic Transport said: “We must do all we can to prevent animals being subjected to such neglect. I would like to thank everyone involved in investigating this case, resulting in this successful prosecution.

“I would also thank local residents for their vigilance and encourage anyone who has concerns about the welfare of an animal to report it to us so that the appropriate action can be taken.”

The prosecution was undertaken by Cheshire West and Chester Council’s Legal Services team working with animal welfare officers from Regulatory Services.

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