Devon farmer found guilty of animal welfare offences.

Trading StandardsTrading Standards

Posted on: 23 March 2018

A Devon farmer found guilty of causing unnecessary suffering to an animal has been given a suspended prison sentence and ordered to pay £6307.

At Exeter Magistrates Court on Wednesday (14 March) William Douglas Dolley, of Holwell Farm, Collipriest, Tiverton was also found guilty of failing to dispose of animal carcasses in a timely manner.

Both charges were brought under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 by Devon, Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards Service.

The court heard that following a tip off in March 2017 Trading Standards and a vet from The Animal and Plant Health Agency visited a field in Rewe used by Dolley. There, under a dung heap, they found the remains of a sheep and three cattle skulls.

This prompted them to inspect Dolley’s farm in Collipriest and there they found further remains. In a farm building they also discovered a steer in a poor condition with a untreated badly infected eye.

Dolley said that the eye was infected when he brought the steer in 2016 and when questioned about the lack of treatment he said ‘I thought it had gone beyond treatment.’ This, said the vet, amounted to causing unnecessary suffering.

Dolley said he was not the operator and employed a stockman who was responsible for the day-to-day running of the farm. In court he said that his stockman had made a ‘mistake’ which lead to the deaths of the animals found at the field in Rewe. He added that it was his stockman who hid the carcasses.

He also claimed that a neighbour had placed sheep and goat bones in the field at his farm ‘to observe wildlife.’

No goat bones were discovered and the amount of sheep remains found were not consistent with the evidence provided.

In summing up the chairman said that as owner of the land, buildings and livestock Dolley had an ‘active’ role at the farm — and was therefore the operator. And, as operator, he was ultimately responsible.

Magistrates added that the evidence given by Dolley’s stockman was unreliable as he claimed to make daily checks on the animals, but had no knowledge of the bovine with the eye infection.

In addition the stockman could only account for two bovines buried at the field in Rewe – yet a mix of both bovine and sheep remains were discovered.

Dolley was given a 20 week custodial sentence suspended for 18 months. He was ordered to pay a total of £6307 which included full prosecution costs and a victim surcharge.

The magistrate said that they could have given him a community order but felt his time was best spent ensuring that his farm was run in an appropriate manner.

Dolores Riordan from Devon, Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards, said: “We support the farming community but where poor practice and unnecessary suffering are discovered we will intervene and take action .
“Laws are there for a reason, to control disease, to protect animals and to ensure the safety of the wider food chain.”

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