Sheep farmer sentenced for animal cruelty

A Dorset sheep farmer has been prosecuted and fined after failing to adequately care for her animals and leaving dead sheep on her land.

On 15 July 2019, at Weymouth Magistrates’ Court, Karen Harper (aged 51) of Charlton Marshall, near Blandford, Dorset, was today sentenced with a Community Order to carry out 180 hours of unpaid work and ordered to pay £2278 prosecution costs and a victim surcharge of £85.

Thin sheep found on Harper’s land

She had pleaded guilty on 24 June 2019 to nine offences under animal health and welfare legislation following investigation by the trading standards team, now part of Dorset Council.

Miss Harper pleaded guilty to three offences under The Animal Welfare Act 2006 of causing unnecessary suffering to her flock of over 75 sheep by failing to follow veterinary advice or provide appropriate care and treatment. She also pleaded guilty to two offences under The Welfare of Farmed Animals (England) Regulations 2007 of failing to care for sick animals and record the number that died; three offences under The Animal By-Products (Enforcement) England Regulations 2013 for failing to dispose of the sheep carcasses without undue delay and one offence of failing to tag sheep as required by The Sheep and Goats Records, Identification and Movement (England) Order 2009.

The court heard that in December 2018 a trading standards officer visited land near the village of Affpuddle in the Purbeck area of Dorset where Harper kept sheep. The officer found more than 25 sheep carcasses littering fields. Many of the remaining 75 sheep were very thin with little grass to eat and no additional feed.

The sheep were later examined by a veterinary officer from the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) who found 54 to be unacceptably thin and one sheep so thin and weak it had to be put to sleep. In addition 43 of the sheep were found not to be ear tagged which is a legal requirement to provide traceability of livestock and helps disease prevention and control.

Harper received a formal caution from trading standards for similar offences in 2017 but failed to follow the advice on caring for her animals given at that time.

Councillor Anthony Alford, Portfolio Holder for Customer, Community and Regulatory Services at Dorset Council said:

“Our Trading Standards team work with farmers and other livestock keepers to improve the welfare of their animals but where advice is ignored formal action is considered. All livestock keepers have a clear responsibility to ensure conditions they keep animals in and the care they are given is adequate and does not cause unnecessary suffering.”

For health and welfare advice on keeping farmed animals or to report an animal welfare problem Dorset residents can call the Trading Standards animal health line on 01305 224475, or email [email protected].