Belfast Telegraph

Animal cruelty case dad and son jailed: 60 starving and dead horses, ponies and donkeys found on farm from hell

By Chris Kilpatrick

A father and son have been jailed after more than 60 starving and rotting horses were found on their farm in what a judge described as a scene of horror.

Police officers and vets found nine dead horses and ponies, and two donkeys piled on top of each other at the Co Antrim property, with carcases among other dying animals.

Judge Desmond Marrinan told 55-year-old Robert James McAleenan and his 28-year-old son Conor 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.

“In my view they are unfit to be carers for any animal. They should be thoroughly ashamed of their callous behaviour,” said Judge Marrinan.

Both father and son, with an address at Lisnevenagh Road, Antrim, pleaded guilty in October to a total of 32 charges involving causing unnecessary suffering to the animals between November 1 and 25 in 2011.

Vets and police arrived at the farm after a report of two dead donkeys in a field.

They found nine dead horses and ponies as well as two donkeys in a heap. Other sheds contained horses crammed together with no food or water.

Some of the animals were in such bad health they had to be humanely put down.

A vet brought in by police to examine the animals recorded “profound and severe” welfare failings.

“In short, these animals had no suitable environment, proper food and no attention paid to their need to be protected from pain, suffering injury and disease,” the judge said.

There was a total of 63 animals at the site.

Fifty-four were rescued and transported to an animal sanctuary in England.

The judge said Conor McAleenan had showed little or no remorse for his crimes.

“In view of the seriousness of the offences, the suffering caused to the animals and number of offences, I have no doubt that the custodial threshold is crossed,” Judge Marrinan said.

“Having looked closely at the mitigating factors, I see no reason not to impose immediate custodial sentences.”

The judge said it was “one of the worst cases of animal cruelty” he had encountered.

“This is a case of utmost gravity,” he added.

Conor McAleenan was sentenced to seven months in prison and his father four-and-a-half months.

Both men were banned from keeping any animals for a period of 25 years.

They showed little emotion as they were led from the dock at Antrim Crown Court, sitting in Coleraine.

The stench of death overwhelming in a scene of horror

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