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Suspended prison sentence for Cumbria man for mistreating 28 owls

Suspended prison sentence for Cumbria man for mistreating 28 owls

A Cumbria man who mistreated 28 owls has been handed a 20-week suspended prison sentence.

Paul Rose from Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria was also disqualified from keeping all birds for five years after pleading guilty to three Animal Welfare Act 2006 offences; for causing unnecessary suffering to a tawny owl and a barn owl - and not meeting the needs of a further 26 owls.

Rose was also put under a curfew from 9pm to 7am for one month. He was sentenced at Preston Crown Court on 17 May.

The court heard that Rose kept a total of 31 owls, ranging from tawny, snowy and eagle to Indian scops, burrowing and Australian boobooks. Five of the birds were kept at his home and 26 at a lock-up in Barrow-in-Furness.

When RSPCA inspectors visited the two premises on 8 March 2022 to check on the birds’ welfare, they found owls with obvious neurological conditions and others with current or previous injuries, which did not appear to have received the necessary veterinary care. In most cases, the birds were being kept in cramped unsuitable conditions - including dog crates not much wider than their wing-span.

RSPCA Inspector Amy McIntosh said: "When I attended the property to assist police with a warrant, I found two tawny owls stacked in dog cages on top of each other. Both of them were showing neurological conditions. One was rolling around in his cage unable to stand properly. Mr Rose told me the owls had been given to him by vets and that they were wild owls. He said they had been in this condition for a number of months."

Outside there were more owls, including one with a broken wing. Rose signed euthanasia consent forms for two of the owls.

On the same day, Inspector McIntosh moved on to Rose’s lock-up premises, where police had to force entry. The RSPCA and vet surgeon Elliott Simpson examined each of the 26 birds kept there.

Inspector McIntosh added: "The lock-up unit was very cramped with a large number of cages containing numerous owls of various species. The cages varied in size from larger enclosures for the Eagle Owls to some cages which were simply small dog crates. None of the cages appeared to contain any water. There was very little natural light getting into the unit and it was dark inside. Some of the owls were visibly disabled with hanging wings indicating they had broken a wing at some point. 

"The veterinary surgeon ... examined each owl and their enclosures before each was placed into animal carriers. In total, 26 owls were removed from this lock-up site."

Dr Simpson said that his overall impression of the lock-up premises was very dark and the housing of all the birds was ‘woefully inadequate’. There were no windows, and the lighting was all switched off. It was dusty, incredibly cramped with numerous owls housed both together and in close proximity to other owls. 

Later that day, when Dr Simpson visited Rose’s home to examine a further five birds, he found more owls showing injury, illness and housed unsuitably. He reported that one owl appeared to have a serious neurological deficit, including a marked head-tilt, and that Rose had said that the bird had been behaving that way since he got it. The bird was unable to stand, and was constantly rolling on the floor of the cage. This bird, and another owl in very poor condition with a wing fracture, were put to sleep to curtail their suffering.

In addition, he was very concerned that gravely debilitated and injured owls were being kept and that despite birds of prey being adept at hiding clinical signs of disease, three birds were clearly in physical distress.

Dr Simpson concluded that: "All suffering observed and documented on this inspection could have been reasonably avoided."