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Pig owner sentenced for 'shocking' conditions at County Durham smallholding

Published September 27, 2019 12.53pm

Pigs living in slurry with only filthy water to drink and horses roaming in fields with sheep carcasses and dangerous debris - such were the sights that greeted inspectors at a County Durham smallholding.

Pig cottrell

The pigs had no clean water or dry areas to rest

Our animal health inspectors and police officers were appalled by the conditions they discovered when they visited land belonging to David Cottrell in March 2018.

It followed a report by a member of the public who was concerned about the welfare of animals under Cottrell's care.

Magistrates in Newton Aycliffe heard how dead pigs were submerged in the slurry in which the live animals were being kept on the site near Medomsley. Piglets were found crammed in a small space without clean water and with no dry areas to rest on, while another pen contained a pig with no water at all.

Approximately 40 hens were tightly packed into a hen house with no natural light, and a dead sheep and wood with nails sticking out of it was found within a field containing horses.

Notice served

Cottrell, of Sandringham Drive, Whickham, Tyne and Wear, was issued with a notice to dispose of the animal by-products. However, when the animal health inspectors and police officer returned on 6 April the conditions were still poor and part of a sheep carcass was still present.

Mr Cottrell was contacted by us about the conditions. However, two subsequent visits also found insufficient improvements had been made, and when Cottrell, 52, was invited to an interview under caution he failed to attend.

In November 2018, we seized 44 pigs from the site and moved them to another location.

Found guilty

Following a trial at Peterlee Magistrates Court on Wednesday, 4 September, Cottrell was found guilty of 31 offences. These include four breaches of the Animal Welfare Act 2006, 21 breaches of the Welfare of Farmed Animals Regulations 2007 and six breaches of the Animal By-products Regulations 2013.

Pigs cottrell 2

The pigs were knee deep in slurry

This week, he was summoned to Newton Aycliffe Magistrates Court for sentencing, where the bench was shown photographs and videos showing the conditions the animal protection officers discovered.

Cottrell was unrepresented but the court heard he had suffered from health problems and personal difficulties for a number of years. He pointed out that hay had been put in for the pigs and that he had removed the sheep carcasses.

Magistrates described the footage as shocking and sentenced Cottrell to a 12-month community order comprising 300 hours of unpaid work and 15 rehabilitation days. He was also disqualified from keeping pigs, horses, poultry and sheep, and was ordered to pay costs of £2,501.65 and a £85 victim surcharge.

Cottrell was also deprived, by the court, of his ownership of the pigs and piglets.

After we seized the pigs last November, many went on to have piglets, resulting in about 150 animals in the our care. In June, Cottrell, who was still the legal owner of the pigs at the time, gave permission for us to sell the animals. This is being done gradually to achieve the best price and, to date, about 111 pigs have been sold.

The cost of looking after the pigs was awarded to us, but it was reduced from £27,765.50 to £22,332.78 to take into account money raised through the sales of the animals.

Face the consequences

Joanne Waller, our head of community protection, said: .It's understandable that magistrates were shocked by the conditions they saw on Cottrell's land, our animal welfare officers were too. Not only were the animals under his care forced to live in slurry, but they also had no access to clean water and some had no water at all.

Icon for pdf Pigs transcript (PDF, 64.9kb)

'This prosecution demonstrates that those who breach animal welfare regulations in County Durham should expect to face the consequences.'

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