UK's biggest rescue mission to save neglected animals from abusive home

More than 200 neglected animals have been saved from a farm in Surrey, marking one of the UK's biggest rescue missions in history. The RSPCA-led investigation began in January 2019 when Surrey Police executed a warrant at a farm in Ripley over concerns for the welfare of horses at the site.

Rescuers found huge herds of ponies riddled with worms, pens full of donkeys standing in months of faeces, and dozens of dogs - some heavily pregnant - shut inside tiny cramped cages. On August 25, a woman was given a suspended sentence after being found guilty of 15 offences under the Animal Welfare Act.

Christine June Kelly of Portsmouth Road, Ripley, was found guilty of failing to meet the needs of 131 equines and convicted of causing unnecessary suffering to a number of horses, dogs and goats.A total of 204 animals were discovered at the site; while three were sadly put to sleep at the scene, the rest were taken into charity care, including 129 horses and donkeys, 59 dogs, three alpacas, five goats, four chickens and one duck.

Some of the sickest animals received immediate veterinary care while others were taken for treatment with numerous charities nearby.

Special Operations Unit case officer, Kirsty Withnall, said: "More than 100 people from different agencies spent more than 12 hours assessing the animals, rounding them up and moving them to vets and rescue centres.

"It's one of the biggest animal welfare operations ever in the UK."

Kelly appeared at Staines Magistrates' Court on Thursday, August 25, and was handed a 26-week prison sentence - suspended for 18 months - as well as being disqualified from keeping all animals for life.

A deprivation order - relating to 12 dogs and seven horses - was also issued, meaning the charities can now rehome them.

All other animals had previously been signed over for care by the charities or to be rehomed.

Prosecuting on behalf of the RSPCA, Hazel Stevens said in her sentencing summary: "Generally, the premises were in a bad state, the housing for the animals was inadequate and in many cases it presented a risk to the animals contained within the various enclosures.

"There was little adequate shelter, the areas were dirty and muddy, and many animals did not have access to clean, dry resting areas or water to drink.

"There was insufficient grazing and dangerous fences, the property posed further risk to the animals due to loose wire that had become entangled around limbs."

Hannah Bryer, head of welfare at The Donkey Sanctuary, said: "Cases like this are never easy but the scale of suffering and the numbers of animals in this case was particularly distressing.

"I will never forget the overwhelming feeling of sadness that I felt walking into that barn and seeing the condition of the donkeys and other animals.

"It was a huge challenge, but everyone worked together brilliantly in difficult conditions."