Farmers charged with animal welfare offences

TWO lambs were dead in a St Andrew’s field and the rest of the flock had no water when seen by a neighbour, the Magistrate’s Court heard yesterday.

(Picture by Sophie Rabey, 28998613)
(Picture by Sophie Rabey, 28998613)

Farming couple Ben, 43, and Hannah Wallace, 39, of La Port, La Grande Lande, St Saviour’s, deny four offences under the animal welfare legislation to which they are jointly charged.

It is alleged that they contravened their duty of care by failing to ensure that the flock was free from pain, injury, disease and thirst, and that they failed to treat two of them with fly repellent and should have sought veterinary care.

The court heard how, in the early evening of 21 September last year, David Prosser, who lives by the field, was alerted to problems in it by a friend.

He told the court that when he went to the field the flock had ‘charged’ towards him as they were desperate for water. The only two water barrels were bone dry.

The carcasses of two lambs, that were five months old, were de-composing nearby. Mr Prosser called the GSPCA, who in turn alerted the police.

Mr Prosser returned to his home where he filled a 10-gallon container with water. He was about to drive back to the field with it when GSPCA animal care assistant Sarah Langlois arrived in an animal ambulance. She took photographs of the empty barrels before Mr Prosser put the water in them.

Mr Prosser said the sheep had been pushing their way to the water and the barrels were soon empty.

He had been involved with animals all his life, including sheep, and he said the deceased ones would have been dead for some time.

States veterinary officer David Chamberlain told the hearing how Guernsey Police had asked him to go to the field. He arrived at about 9.30pm, by which time it was quite dark. Mr Prosser had already provided the flock with water so one element of the problem had been dealt with.

One of the carcasses was in a worse state of degradation than the other. It had a wound to the pelvic area that had all the hallmarks of a pre-death injury for which he gave the court technical details.

He believed the animal would have been lame when it died. Maggots were of a size that suggested they were about three days old. Two other sheep required urgent attention as they were suffering from blowfly strike.

An observant, attentive shepherd would have recognised the problem and examined it more closely, he said. At the time of his visit, Mr Chamberlain had not known who owned the sheep. It would have been impossible to round them up in the dark so it was agreed that he would go back to the field at Les Friquets, above Talbot Valley, at 9.30am the next day which was a Sunday. Police also attended.

He asked for the knacker to attend as, at the least, the carcasses would need to be removed to prevent further infestation and potential damage to the rest of the flock. Mr and Mrs Wallace attended once it had been established whose flock it was.

Mr Wallace took hurdles to the field so the sheep could be rounded up with the help of his dog for checking.

Mr Chamberlain said he did not believe that the two barrels in the field would have held enough water for the flock of about 70 sheep even if they had been filled every day. He said Mr Wallace told him that the flock had last been checked on the Friday.

Prosecuting advocate Jenny McVeigh said the defence would be putting it to Mr Chamberlain that the two lambs which had required urgent attention had since recovered.

He replied: ‘It’s not just about recovery but the journey through recovery. I think we can be pretty certain that the second of the two lambs that died had suffered.’

He was aware that somebody who normally helped Mr and Mrs Wallace was unavailable at the time and the couple had just taken on a large dairy farm. Mr Chamberlain said Mr Wallace had been very candid with him at the time and had told him that they knew they had messed up.

‘I described it as the perfect storm of disasters,’ said Mr Chamberlain.

The case continues.

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