THE founder of Barrow’s Owl Sanctuary has been disqualified from keeping or owning birds for five years after a judge ruled he had housed his animals in ‘woefully inadequate conditions’.

Paul Rose MBE, 71, pleaded guilty on the day of his trial to two counts of causing unnecessary suffering to a protected animal and one count of failing to ensure animal welfare, contrary to Section 4 and Section 9 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006.

Joel Wootton, prosecuting the case at Preston Crown Court, said officers from Cumbria Police and the RSPCA conducted inspections at two of the charity’s aviaries on March 8 2022.

He said 26 owls were seized from a lockup on Brady’s Yard after they were found to have been crammed into cramped, cluttered cages in an aviary that had no windows.

Mr Wootton added the owls did not have enough space to open their wings.

The court was told a further five owls were seized from the defendant’s property on Foxfield Lane, Walney.

Mr Wootton said two of these owls were euthanised within 48 hours due to having serious neurological problems and being unable to stand properly.

He added during the inspection that a barn owl was found to have suffered a fractured wing.

The court was told another owl was later put to sleep whilst in the care of the RSPCA.

An RSPCA inspector commented that the owls were all ‘suffering to some degree’, the court heard.

Rose was also sentenced after he admitted he had displayed an ‘amber listed’ tawny owl named Ludo for commercial purposes without an Article 10 certificate.

The court heard that this was the same owl that was neurologically damaged.

The court was told Rose applied for a exhibition licence to show all of his owls at local schools and other events in 2020, which was later revoked.

He was sentenced on the basis that he cared for every one of his birds, that he did not commit the offences out of any malice, and that he did so as a result of overwhelming demand for his services, his poor health and the COVID-19 pandemic.  

In mitigation, Joseph Hart said his client had not been ‘deliberately cruel’.

Mr Hart added: “It is quite clear this defendant was regularly consulting vets about the birds in his care.

“He is besotted with his animals and has devoted himself to them.

“He consulted vets about the two owls that were ultimately destroyed two years before the offending. Having taken them to the vets, they were released back to him.

“He began with the best of intentions but by the time we get to March 8, he had a very large amount of owls in wholly unsatisfactory conditions and he has not sought medical advice.

 “This is not a deliberate attempt to cause suffering, but it is arguably a prolonged period of neglect.

“There is no suggestion these animals were being used for commercial gain. He genuinely cared for the animals, perhaps too much as he refused to hand them over."

The court heard Rose, who served as an RAF reservist for many years and who was awarded an MBE in 2002 for services to the defence industry, was a man of previous good character, save for a previous caution in 2011 for failing to apply for an Article 10 certificate.

Recorder Katie Jones sentenced the defendant to a 20-week prison sentence suspended for two years with one requirement of completing a one-month curfew between the hours of 9pm – 7am.

Proceeding to sentence, she said: “These birds were kept in woefully inadequate conditions in dark, cold and dusty spaces. The biggest enclosure you had was 109cm x 75cm x 69cm which was significantly smaller dimensions than the recommended dimensions.

“You simply failed to discharge your duty to consider their welfare.

“It was not your intention to cause the birds any harm, but you had plenty of warning about what was expected of you.

“You could have asked for help and you should have familiarised yourself with what suitable conditions these animals need.”

Recorder Jones also disqualified Rise from owning or keeping all birds for five years to give him ‘time to engage in educational work’.

The order also prohibits Rose from controlling or influencing the way in which birds are kept.