Tinsel and pal Jingles on road to recovery as callous owner who neglected donkey herd is given a life ban
Two donkeys are on the road to recovery after being rescued from a Co Antrim herd that had suffered serious neglect.
Young males Tinsel and Jingles are being cared for by the Donkey Sanctuary after their owner James Steele was found guilty of two animal welfare offences.
The 46-year-old, from Glenavy, failed to make provision for the welfare of six donkeys and caused unnecessary suffering. Most of the animals had to be put down.
The Donkey Sanctuary's welfare adviser Jane Bruce said Tinsel and Jingles were in poor condition when they were taken in around Christmas, with open sores all over their bodies.
Vets have been working with the donkeys over the past few weeks, giving them vaccinations and providing dental work.
The hope is to rehome them when they recover fully.
"We seem to be turning a corner with them," Jane said.
"Their treatment is still ongoing at this moment in time, but they seem to be a bit more placid now.
"They've started to pick up and they're really enjoying their food.
"They had been malnourished at one stage.
"We're socialising them and getting them used to people.
"They're going in the right direction.
"It's all very positive and they're responding well.
"Once we get the donkeys up to full health and get them happy and contented, we hope to eventually rehome them with a foster carer."
The charges against Steele resulted from a complaint received by Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council's animal welfare service on June 26, 2015 about donkeys with overgrown hooves - so severe that some of them could not stand up.
The animals were kept in fields in the Dundrod and Stoneyford area of Co Antrim.
Animal welfare investigators found 11 donkeys, nine of which had severely overgrown hooves, making it very painful and difficult for them to walk.
Steele was found to be the owner of six of the donkeys and was later convicted of cruelty under the Welfare of Animals Act (NI) 2011.
After a full examination, the council's vet recommended that nine of the donkeys be humanely destroyed because they were in so bad a condition.
The two remaining donkeys - Tinsel and Jingles - were seized on the vet's advice and taken into the care of the council until a disposal order was granted by the court allowing the donkeys to be passed into the care of the sanctuary.
Steele was given a lifetime ban from owning or keeping animals.
Ms Bruce said: "We welcome the ban, which we feel properly reflects the severity of the suffering inflicted on these animals.
"We are grateful to the council's animal welfare service for contacting us to help rescue the two surviving animals and give them a fresh chance at life.
"The donkeys are now guaranteed a lifetime of care with the Donkey Sanctuary.
"This is a very sad case, but we are pleased that these lovely donkeys are now safe and secure in our care.
"We hope that when or if they recover their full health that they will be suitable to join our rehoming scheme and become part of someone's loving family - which would be a wholly unique experience for these animals."