AN ANIMAL sanctuary boss has been jailed for causing unnecessary suffering to animals in his care.

Graham Stephens, of Broad Street, Bromyard, has also been banned from keeping animals for life after pleading guilty to eight offences under the Animal Welfare Act.

The sentence comes after a total of 44 animals were found at Little Meadow Animal Rescue at Stoke Bliss, near Tenbury Wells, 35 of which were held in one room in a static caravan after a warrant was executed at the property by West Mercia Police in March 2022 due to repeated reports of animal neglect.

Stephens, who set up the sanctuary in 2010, was sentenced to eight months in prison by magistrates in December 2022, and was handed a lifetime disqualification from keeping animals, but was bailed after lodging an appeal against the sentence.

Ledbury Reporter: Donkeys were found in a muddy paddock with overgrown feetDonkeys were found in a muddy paddock with overgrown feet (Image: RSPCA)

The appeal hearing at Hereford Crown Court in October heard that the 63-year-old had caused unnecessary suffering by failing to provide appropriate farriery, or dental treatment, or to address a heavy lice infestation on three donkeys, and failing to provide appropriate farriery, treatment for a bacterial infection, and for a heavy lice infestation for a fourth donkey.

He had caused unnecessary suffering by failing to provide veterinary treatment for a Chinese crested dog's eye condition and dental disease, by keeping two rabbits and a guinea pig in a faeces-covered cage of insufficient size, keeping four tawny owls and a little owl in filthy cages that were too small and too close to dogs, and by confining a squirrel in a dirty cage that was too small and too close to dogs.


He also did not take all reasonable steps to ensure that the needs of 24 dogs, two rabbits, one guinea pig, four tawny owls, one little owl, one pheasant, one budgie, and one grey squirrel which he was responsible were met to the extent required by good practice, and that the needs of three donkeys and an alpaca were met.

Ledbury Reporter: Owls were found in faeces-caked cages in a static caravanOwls were found in faeces-caked cages in a static caravan (Image: RSPCA)

In a statement to the court, RSPCA acting chief inspector Thea Kerrison and inspector Suzi Smith said the seven donkeys and two alpacas found at the site had little to no grazing and were eating dirty, wet straw which had been laid as a dry base to stand on. Broken barbed wire fencing, scrap metal, and "many hazards" were found in the area, they said.

Inspector Smith said "you could smell the stench, ammonia, and faeces" as soon as they opened the door to the static caravan, where they found faeces caked on the floor, dogs both loose and in cages, some stacked on top of each other, caged rabbits, a budgie, a squirrel, and owls with feathers "caked in faeces".

Two owls were put down after veterinary assessment, while the squirrel was also put to sleep as grey squirrels cannot be released back into the wild under invasive species legislation.

Ledbury Reporter: The animals were kept in a caravan caked with faecesThe animals were kept in a caravan caked with faeces (Image: RSPCA)

The rest of the animal have been rehomed or housed in sanctuary care after being rescued from the registered charity's site.

Two of the donkeys, which were found to be pregnant, have since given birth to healthy foals, the RSPCA said, while two male donkeys were castrated as soon as vets felt they were well enough.

Stephens withdrew the appeal at the end of the hearing and the original sentence was activated, with an additional £750 costs ordered to be paid.