A MAN has been banned from keeping animals apart from having a pet dog after he neglected five pet rabbits which were found in filthy hutches without food and water in a back yard.
Samuel Carson Balmer (59), of Skye Park in Ballymena, pleaded guilty to a charge of failing ‘to meet animal needs’ and appeared at Ballymena Magistrates Court on Wednesday, via video link from his solicitor’s office.
Barrister Lauren Cheshire prosecuting on behalf of Mid & East Antrim Borough Council said that on December 5, 2017, an animal welfare officer attended the defendant’s home address where there were two Terrier dogs in reasonable condition but there were two rabbit hutches in the back yard.
The first hutch had two rabbits inside, one of which the welfare officer believed was “very thin” and faeces had built up in the hutch to the depth of two or three inches and there was “no food”.
A second hutch was split up into two sections – in one there were two rabbits who were “apparently fighting to get near an empty water drinker” and again faeces was about three inches deep and “again there was no bedding”.
She said one of the rabbits was “very thin” and in the second section of that hutch there was one rabbit again “surrounded by faeces” with no food in the hutches.
The lawyer said a vet attended and noted two rabbits were “considerably under weight” and also noted that all of them had “very overgrown nails”.
She said the vet described the hutches as home-made and very old and the defendant said at the scene that he “only cleaned them out yearly” and later said he couldn’t remember when he last cleaned the hutches.
Balmer also said the rabbits had never been out of the hutches because he kept the dogs in the yard, the court was told.
The court heard the vet had advised the immediate removal of the rabbits on the grounds that they were “likely to suffer”.
The prosecutor said costs associated with the case of £307 included £150 legal costs; £135 vet costs and £22 court costs.
A defence solicitor said the defendant had “apologised for the neglect”.
The lawyer added: “Thankfully there were no fatalities and apparently the rabbits have been re-housed to good homes”.
He said the defendant lived alone and had “physical” and “mental health” issues.
The lawyer said two close friends of the defendant had passed away and Balmer had “lost the will to live” which had impacted on the “poor rabbits”.
He said Balmer no longer kept rabbits which had been brought to him by his grand-daughter because she had no facilities to house them.
The lawyer said the defendant now has only one dog and he benefits from its company because of his mental health issues.
Deputy District Judge Philip Mateer said all cases of “causing unnecessary suffering to animals are taken seriously by the courts for good reason”.
He said the rabbits had been “under-weight” and “badly housed in facilities which didn’t provide adequate exercise to the extent that their nails were overgrown and the bedding had not been changed in a very considerable time – they were living in their own faeces and urine”.
He added: “There wasn’t food or water available. Fortunately, no dead animals were found and this indicates that although badly cared for there was some attention being paid to them”.
The judge said were it not for the fact that the defendant had dogs which were properly cared for he would have banned him from keeping all animals.
Judge Mateer also took into account Balmer’s “mental health issues” and gave the defendant a two year conditional discharge which would mean his behaviour could be monitored.
He ordered the defendant, who is on benefits, to pay the £307 costs.
Judge Mateer banned Balmer from keeping animals for two years apart from having a dog.