A father and son who caused suffering to more than 60 equines in their care have been jailed.

Robert McAleenan and son Conor McAleenan from Country Antrim, Northern Ireland, were given custodial sentences and banned from keeping animals for 25 years after 66 horses, ponies and donkeys were rescued from their care.

Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) Sergeant Allison Liddle and vet Nicolas de Brauwere from Redwings Horse Sanctuary attended the farm Lisnevenagh Road and a separate site nearby on 25th November 2011 and found a number of horses and donkeys in a state of suffering and many living in unsuitable conditions.

One horse was euthanised on welfare grounds, while a piebald mare was so emaciated she was unable to stand up.

The horses had been left without food or water, many were standing in their own waste with no clean bedding and they were suffering with worm infestations, overgrown hooves and infections such as strangles.

The pair pleaded guilty to the 17 charges brought by the PSNI. Conor was sentenced to 22 months and will serve seven months in prison, while his father Robert was given 20 months and will serve four and a half months in prison. 

The judge also issued a deprivation order so all the animals can be signed over into the permanent care of the charities who rescued them – 23 of the horses and ponies were transported to Redwings in Norfolk.

Redwings head of welfare and senior vet Nic de Brauwere, who was the lead witness for the prosecution in the case, said: “The welfare concerns I identified were profound and the suffering inflicted on the equines was as severe as it is possible to encounter.

“I believe Robert and Conor McAleenan fundamentally failed to protect the welfare of their horses and donkeys. They failed to address even their basic health and husbandry requirements and allowed several of the animals to suffer profoundly and for an extended amount of time. I am absolutely delighted to see that justice has finally been done, but, speaking frankly, this should never have happened in the first place.”

The group rescued by Redwings all made a full recovery and will be guaranteed a home for life at Redwings, either living at its sanctuary sites or rehomed through the charity’s Guardianship Scheme.

PSNI Sergeant Allison Liddle said: “This was one of the most harrowing things I have ever seen both as a police officer and an animal lover.

“There is no reason why animals should suffer. I would urge anyone who suspects that animals are being harmed or kept in dangerous or unhealthy conditions to call their local police so the appropriate action can be taken swiftly”.

Michael Crane, head of welfare at The Donkey Sanctuary added: “The Donkey Sanctuary welcomes the serious sentence given, which reflects the extreme suffering inflicted on the animals.”

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