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Man who neglected rabbits is banned from keeping farm animals for five years

PUBLISHED: 13:29 11 October 2018 | UPDATED: 13:29 11 October 2018

A rabbit found on a smallholding operated by Matthew Lowe near Sudbury  Picture: SUFFOLK TRADING STANDARDS

A rabbit found on a smallholding operated by Matthew Lowe near Sudbury Picture: SUFFOLK TRADING STANDARDS

Suffolk Trading Standards

A man has been banned from owning farm animals for a minimum of five years after an inspection of his smallholding near Sudbury discovered rabbits in such poor health they had to be put down.

One of the rabbits found on a smallholding operated by Matthew Lowe near Sudbury. The rabbit was later put down  Picture: SUFFOLK TRADING STANDARDSOne of the rabbits found on a smallholding operated by Matthew Lowe near Sudbury. The rabbit was later put down Picture: SUFFOLK TRADING STANDARDS

Matthew Lowe, 39, from Newton, pleaded guilty at a previous hearing to causing unnecessary suffering to four rabbits by failing to properly attend to their welfare or seek veterinary help for their poor health at land off The Street in Assington.

He also admitted failing to let authorities know that he began keeping pigs and failing to ensure a pig enclosure had farrowing rails to protect piglets.

In addition, he pleaded guilty to attending to pigs, poultry and rabbits without the appropriate ability, knowledge or professional competence, and failing to provide four sows with a suitable environment by housing them apart from other animals.

At his sentencing yesterday at Ipswich Magistrates’ Court, Adam Pearson, prosecuting on behalf of Trading Standards at Suffolk County Council, said inspectors had attended Lowe’s smallholding on December 19 last year after receiving a tip-off from a neighbour.

Mr Pearson described four rabbits which were in such poor health they had to be euthanised.

He said officers found a one large white rabbit lying on its side in an enclosure suffering from breathing problems.

A brown rabbit was discovered with swollen eyes and symptoms of myxomatosis while a second white rabbit was found with a badly injured back leg which had set at an angle, affecting the animal’s movement.

A fourth rabbit was discovered unresponsive with a sore ‘the size of a 50p piece’ on its back.

He added there were signs that rats had infested the rabbit enclosures and that officers also discovered a rubbish bin with four rabbit carcasses inside.

In mitigation Craig Marchant said Lowe was remorseful of his actions and recognised his failures in looking after the animals.

He said Lowe should be given credit for his early guilty plea and for cooperating with officers.

“Mr Lowe has sought to be cooperative throughout this inquiry,” he said.

“He remains thoroughly embarrassed by the state of affairs.”

Sentencing Lowe, presiding magistrate Peter Forster said; “We have heard of your failure to comply with official notices, your lack of understanding towards animal husbandry which led to prolonged neglect and the fact that animals have suffered as a result.”

Lowe was given an eight week prison sentence suspended for 18 months, 100 hours of unpaid work, costs of £4,899 and a £115 victim surcharge.

Clair Missen, Suffolk Trading Standards’ senior officer, who led the case, said: “Situations like this are fortunately rare for us, when animals must be immediately put down.

“Vigilant checks and attending to the animals’ basic needs would have prevented any suffering.”

Councillor Richard Rout, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for environment and public protection, said: “It is deeply upsetting to hear cases where animals are kept in conditions like these, and I am pleased to say that we are not presented with cases like this very often.

“However, as this instance shows, we will not tolerate such behaviour and will take the strongest possible measures to ensure rightful prosecution.”

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