A HEREFORDSHIRE man who ran an animal sanctuary has been sentenced to eight months in prison for multiple animal welfare offences.

The decision follows the withdrawal of Graham Stephens' appeal and includes a lifetime ban on owning animals.

Stephens, aged 63, of Broad Street, Bromyard, was originally sentenced in December 2022 at Worcester Magistrates’ Court, having admitted eight offences under the Animal Welfare Act.

The court was told that Stephens had founded the Little Meadow Animal Rescue charity in Tenbury Wells in 2010 with good intentions, but had found himself out of his depth, exacerbated by personal difficulties.

An appeal was launched and bail granted, but following a hearing on October 10, 2023, at Hereford Crown Court, the appeal was withdrawn.

The original sentence will stand, along with an added cost of £750.

The case revolved around the rescue of 44 animals from Stephens’ care.

RSPCA inspectors found 35 animals confined to one room in a static home. The list included 24 dogs, two rabbits, one guinea pig, four tawny owls, one little owl, one pheasant, one budgie, and one squirrel. Additionally, seven donkeys and two alpacas were found outside in a paddock.

RSPCA inspector Suzi Smith detailed the conditions in a written statement.

She described “wet and muddy” conditions with “broken barbed wire fencing, broken junk, scrap metal, old vehicles and many hazards.” Inside a mobile home on the property, the “stench was overwhelming,” she said.

She also provided details about the animals’ suffering, including lack of appropriate veterinary care and poor living conditions.

Several animals had to be euthanised due to their conditions, including two of the tawny owls and the grey squirrel, which cannot legally be released back into the wild.

Following the hearing, inspector, the inspector expressed gratitude to West Mercia Police and other organisations for their assistance.

She emphasised the importance of responsible animal care, stating, “To need rescuing once in life is sad, to need rescuing twice is unacceptable.”

Hannah Bryer, Head of Welfare at The Donkey Sanctuary, said seven donkeys were taken into their care, two of which later gave birth.

They are committed to improving the lives of donkeys and thanked their supporters for making it possible.

All animals involved in this case have now been rehomed, confirming that their future will be more secure than their past.