Bird rescuer kept animals in 'filthy' conditions

The owner of bird rescue centre has been given a lifetime ban from keeping animals after inspectors found dozens of dead and injured wild birds there.

Carol Gravenor, 67, from Coed Main, Caerphilly, admitted six animal welfare offences after 26 birds were rescued from her sanctuary.

A peregrine falcon with a missing eye was found in a filthy cage too small to spread its wings, the RSPCA said.

It had to be put down along with 20 others.

The Caerphilly Bird Rescue, a well-known charity for bird rehabilitation in south Wales, was run by Mrs Gravenor and her husband Ray until his death in 2021.

In a written statement heard by Newport Magistrates' Court, RSPCA inspector Keith Hogben described unhygienic and hazardous conditions found during an inspection of the centre in April 2023

The wild birds found included pigeons, blackbirds, crows, jackdaws, a peregrine falcon and a common buzzard.

Some were living in a kitchen inside the property, he said, while others were loose in the garden and some were caged in sheds, and 20 were found dead.

"There were many empty soiled bird cages piled on top of each other in the garden," he said.

"In the back garden were several pigeons walking around that looked to have dropped wings along with some domestic ducks, a domestic goose and a chicken that was obviously lame.

"We were invited into the house and on the kitchen table were two fledgling blackbirds and a nestling pigeon."

A cardboard box on a kitchen unit also held Jackdaw with an injured eye.

Mr Hogben said he found "a peregrine falcon bird with its left eye missing" in a shed.

"The environment was poor with no water and a filthy cage which was too small for the falcon to spread its wings in all directions.

"Within two feet [0.6m] of this cage containing the peregrine falcon was another cage containing eight pigeons.

"This cage was in full sight of the cage containing the peregrine falcon, and again had no water and the cage was in a filthy condition with hardly any perches."

All the birds were sent for assessment by a wildlife veterinarian at the RSPCA West Hatch Wildlife Centre, where just five pigeons were deemed fit to be given the chance of rehabilitation.

Gravenor was sentenced to 14 weeks custody, suspended for 12 months.

In her defence, her solicitor said her breathing was impacted by respiratory condition psittacosis, known as pigeon fanciers lung, and had struggled since the death of her husband.

After sentencing Mr Hogben said: "Keeping and rehabilitating wild birds is a huge commitment requiring specialist knowledge, husbandry, equipment and accommodation.

"While most rescues and sanctuary owners start out with the best intentions, sadly, vulnerable animals entering these establishments can sometimes end up in even worse situations than they were in already, with sanctuary owners ending up in situations not realising the severity of the problems with their establishments until it is too late."