Harry Potter falconer charged with cruelty

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The Independent Online

A falconer whose owls starred in a Harry Potter film has pleaded guilty to a string of animal cruelty offences, after experts described the aviaries on his farm as "filthy, squalid abandon".

Kenneth Lea, 50, admitted 17 counts of animal cruelty committed between March and June last year. The charges relate to 42 birds, including nine owls and 11 chickens, that were raised in Old Park Farm in Wakefield, West Yorkshire.

The owls appeared in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – flying in the scene where Harry visits the owlery to send a letter to his godfather Sirius Black. Before their movie debut, the owls spent three months with trainers employed by Birds and Animals UK.

Wakefield magistrates' court heard that the RSPCA was called on 30 June last year as Lea was being evicted from his premises.

Ian Drummond, prosecuting for the RSPCA, said the specialist vet found a mass of aviaries with birds suffering from dehydration and a host of debilitating injuries including leg wounds, overgrown beaks and swollen and clubbed feet. The vet said in a statement: "Never in my entire professional life have I encountered premises this squalid and dirty. The best expression to describe the state of the entire farm would be filthy, squalid abandon".

Lea, now of Bradford, West Yorkshire, admitted that he struggled to maintain conditions for the birds as he was working night shifts as a driver. He has since had the birds removed from his care and is now seeking legal advice. The case has been adjourned until next month.