Shepherd jailed for animal neglect

A SHEPHERD has been sentenced to six months in prison for what Trading Standards officials have described as the "worst" ever case of animal neglect in Suffolk.

By Danielle Nuttall

A SHEPHERD has been sentenced to six months in prison for what Trading Standards officials have described as the "worst" ever case of animal neglect in Suffolk.

Edward Howard, 54, caused unnecessary suffering to dozens of sheep on his land by not providing enough water, food and shelter.

Many of the animals were so weak from malnutrition and chronic sheep scab when they were found that they had to be put down by government vets.

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Howard, formerly of Campsea Ashe, but now of Churnwood Road, Colchester, admitted 15 charges relating to the mistreatment of sheep and also three further charges of not disposing of dead sheep.

Yesterday, at South East Suffolk Magistrates' Court, he was sentenced to six months in prison and banned from keeping livestock for a period of ten years.

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However, he was immediately released on unconditional bail pending an appeal.

The court heard how in 1997 Howard had obtained a licence to graze up to 500 livestock on land at the former RAF Bentwaters airbase, near Woodbridge.

During December 2000, he had agreed to look after more than 700 sheep belonging to four farmers from Yorkshire on his land, at a cost of 40p per sheep per week during the winter months.

Daniel Fugallo, prosecuting, told the court that during a visit on February 7, 2001, officers from Suffolk's Trading Standards department found 47 decomposing sheep littered throughout Howard's land.

One of the dead animals had become entangled in razor wire fencing and another was trapped by its right horn on another fence, Mr Fugallo told the court.

During another visit on February 21, 2001, officers discovered a further 42 dead sheep in and around former aircraft hangars.

The court heard that a post mortem examination on one of the animals had revealed malnutrition, overgrown hooves and "minimal stomach contents".

Mr Fugallo told the court of three other occasions when officials had visited the site and found other animals in an extremely poor condition.

"The condition of 28 animals that were slaughtered led the vet to conclude that the person responsible for the sheep had failed to take all reasonable steps to ensure their welfare" he said.

"She also concluded they had not been fed an adequate or wholesome diet, adequate protection from weather or predators or adequate water supply for the animals."

James Dixon, for Howard, said his client had always been unwilling to take full responsibility for what had happened to the animals.

He said Howard, who now works as an HGV driver, had reached an agreement with another man who agreed to transport the sheep to the farm and had no control over how many were eventually brought.

"When all these matters came to a head and indeed even before, Mr Howard was not someone who was just wanting to turn a blind eye to what was going on," he told the court.

Mr Dixon added that Howard had split up from his partner of seven years at the time the offences took place and was suffering from depression.

Speaking after the case, Roger Hopkins, assistant county trading standards officer, said he was pleased magistrates had imposed the maximum sentence as it reflected the seriousness of the offence.

"The neglect inflicted on these animals was the worst we have seen in Suffolk and somebody who was a vet said it was worst neglect ever he had seen.

"It was an extremely serious case. This is a lesson to anybody involved in keeping livestock to make sure they keep them in good condition."

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