A 68-year-old man, who claimed to be running an animal rescue centre from his home in Shrewsbury, has been found guilty of kicking and punching birds of prey.
William MacKenzie, of Boscobel Drive, was given a lifetime ban from keeping all animals yesterday (Sept 12) after being found guilty of nine animal welfare charges in a case brought against him by the RSPCA. He was also handed a 24-week suspended sentence and ordered to wear an electronic tag for six months, as well as paying £500 in costs.
During the trial, the court was shown video footage, filmed by neighbours, which showed MacKenzie striking and kicking several birds of prey in his garden, including a snowy owl and an African spotted eagle owl.
Chairman of the magistrates Mrs Maxine Taplin, said: “There is clear evidence of unnecessary suffering and we can see no justification for this.” The court also saw footage of MacKenzie using a petrol style lawn mower to cut the grass close to where several owls and a Harris Hawk, were perched. The footage appeared to show the birds trying to fly away in distress.
Mrs Taplin added: “We agree with the opinion of the prosecution that it was bad practice to use a lawn mower in close proximity to the birds.
“We accept the prosecution’s assertion that the birds would have been caused fear and distress by these actions.”
Following the verdict, RSPCA inspector Dave McCartney said there was no excuse for what MacKenzie had done.
He added: “That treatment of the birds has occurred over a number of years and his behaviour is exaggerated by the fact that he was running a rescue centre supposedly caring for sick and injured birds. He was in his own words ‘experienced and knowledgeable’ and should have known what he was doing to the birds was wrong.”
During the trial, MacKenzie, who had 30 years experience handling birds of prey, denied hurting them, claiming they were like ‘children’. He said it had been his hobby to rescue birds of prey which had been abandoned or involved in road accidents.
But prosecution witness, Neil Forbes, a vetinary surgeon and expert in avian medicine, said he had never seen a falconer behave in this manner to birds of prey.
West Mercia Police and RSPCA officers carried out a raid of MacKenzie’s home in October last year and removed 27 birds of prey, including owls and hawks.
The raid came following a tip-off from neighbours, who had filmed footage which appeared to show MacKenzie with the birds, over a period of two years.