A family of six from an animal sanctuary near Abingdon were sentenced to up to 26 weeks’ imprisonment and many were banned from keeping all animals for life after being found guilty of 16 animal cruelty offences at Oxford Magistrates Court.

The charges were failure to provide adequate nutrition, adequate parasitic control and provision of veterinary care to animals in their care on July 24th at Bicester Magistrates Court.

Crunchies Animal Sanctuary owner Angela Russell, 44, and her father Frederick Russell, 81, who was a founding trustee of the charity, were both sentenced to 26 weeks imprisonment and were banned from keeping animals for life.  Mr. Russell’s sentence was suspended for 18 months in view of his age and he was ordered to pay costs of £1,000.

Robert Russell, 24, the owner’s son, was sentenced to immediate imprisonment for 18 weeks and was banned from owning, keeping, dealing, transporting or participating in keeping of animals for 10 years.

Two of the owners’ daughters were also sentenced.  Kirsty Russell, 22, received a curfew order from 8pm and 6am to restrict her liberty for four months. She also received a community order and must pay £1000 in costs. Her sister Louise Russell, 20, was sentenced to 12 weeks imprisonment which is suspended for 18 months.  She must also be electronically monitored for curfew from 8pm to 6am for three months.  She was ordered to pay £1,000 in costs and both sisters are banned from owning, keeping, dealing, transporting or participating in keeping of animals for 10 years.

The owner’s niece, Abigail McHugh, 20, of Pendennis Road, Swindon, was sentenced to 150 hours of community service over the next 12 months and ordered to pay £1000 in costs. She did not receive a ban from keeping animals as the judge felt she showed remorse for her actions

100 animals including dogs, cats, rabbits, goats, horses and others were removed from the charity due to the horrific conditions that the animals  were kept in.

A total of six horses rescued from the site were taken into World Horse Welfare’s care at Hall Farm, Snetterton in Norfolk during January 2012 where they began their rehabilitation. World Horse Welfare also provided video evidence to the court.

District judge Tim Pattinson said of the case during sentencing:

“The photos and videos shown during this case will be remembered by everyone who saw them for a very long time. In particular, the horses crippled by overgrown hooves and the horses trying to eat from a wheelie bin.”

“All of you inflicted this suffering in the name of this charity; a rescue centre, a sanctuary , but nothing could be further from the truth than that of what was going on at Crunchies.”

World Horse Welfare Field Officer, Nick White was called to the scene where the horses and other animals were first found amongst rubble, rubbish and faeces. 

“I am satisfied with the sentencing. I think the sentences imposed today reflect the gravity of the case and take into account the suffering of the animals and the failures of the Russell family who were supposed to be looking after them."

World Horse Welfare Yard Supervisor for Hall Farm, Norfolk, Lizzie Hunt talks about the group that came in:

“When they came into our care they were very nervous and completely unhandled, their feet had probably never been seen by a farrier and they were not used to headcollars. As they arrived they were covered in clumps of faeces and mud with bald patches all over their bodies where they were suffering from a lice infestation.”

The group consisted of Frodo the skewbald Shetland, Gem the Welsh-Cross and her foal Pandora, Welsh-Cross Harmony, and Rupert and Diego the stallions.

All except Frodo, who has finally found a safe and loving home, are still undergoing extensive rehabilitation in order to overcome the neglect they faced for so long in the hands of a supposed animal charity.