Belfast Telegraph

Happy and healthy again, the horses found on the verge of death at a Co Antrim farm

By Chris Kilpatrick

They had been left clinging to life after appalling neglect, but just look at them now.

These rescued ponies have been christened the Breakfast Club - Jam, Muesli, Benedict, Waffle and Croissant -and fresh pictures of them running free in an animal sanctuary are worlds away from the shocking snaps of their emaciated bodies when they were found at a Co Antrim farm.

Fed, scrubbed and given a new start, they are barely recognisable from the neglected animals welfare experts and police first encountered.

Each has been given a name associated with breakfast and all have been flourishing since they were nurtured back to health at the Redwings Horse Sanctuary and Crosskennan Lane Animal Sanctuary.

When they were found in 2011 many of the horses were starving, and one was so weak that it couldn't be saved.

Police officers and vets discovered nine dead horses and ponies, and two donkeys piled on top of each other. Their carcasses lay among other dying animals.

One mare was so emaciated she was unable to stand and despite the best efforts of the rescuers over the next few days, she never recovered. The horses had been left without food or water; many were standing in their own waste with no clean bedding and most had worms or infections.

Last week father and son Robert and Conor McAleenan, from Lisnevenagh Road, Antrim, were jailed for what a judge described as a scene of horror. Both men were also banned from keeping any animals for 25 years.

With help from the police, Redwings, the Donkey Sanctuary and Crosskennan Lane Animal Sanctuary spent several days removing all the horses and donkeys from the site and taking them to places of safety.

Lynn Friel from Crosskennan said: "What these animals were going through was horrible. At the very least a statement has been made with the jailing of those responsible.

"The horses are coming on brilliantly now. All of those rescued have lovely temperaments and we have spent a lot of time on their rehabilitation and preparation for re-homing."

Redwings vet Nic de Brauwere, who was the lead witness for the prosecution in the court case, said: "The suffering inflicted on the equines was as severe as it is possible to encounter.

"I am absolutely delighted to see that justice has finally been done but speaking frankly, this should never have happened in the first place."

PSNI Sergeant Allison Liddle said the case was one of most harrowing things she had seen as a police officer. "The sight of the awful conditions that these animals were forced to endure will stay with me forever," she said.

Background

Judge Desmond Marrinan told 55-year-old Robert McAleenan and his son Conor (28) that their offences were of the "utmost gravity". Conor McAleenan was jailed for seven months and his father for four-and-a-half months. They will spend the same time on licence when released. The case photographs were described as "horrific... almost unbelievable", and they and the evidence bore "testimony to the fact they treated these poor animals in a pitiless manner without the slightest regard for their welfare", Antrim Crown Court was told.

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