Barn owls saved from illegal trader

A man who illegally kept and sold barn owls in his back garden has been forced to surrender the animals.

Lee Wellings had kept the owls in aviaries at his home address in Scholar Walk, Walsall.

Last December officers discovered six of the protected species after executing a search warrant alongside the National Wildlife Crime Unit.

Further enquiries revealed three of the owls were being kept illegally and Wellings had repeatedly submitted false applications for permits for others.

He had bred birds for more than four years and been issued with at least 50 certificates by submitting incorrect statements.

These permits are a legal requirement in order to own, breed and sell protected birds.

Credit: West Midlands Police

Police identified two buyers who had bought an owl each for £50 and £65 after seeing them advertised for sale by Wellings.

The 45-year-old, of Rushall pleaded guilty to three counts of illegally having wild birds, two charges of unlawfully selling a protected species and offences of making false statements to obtain 57 permits.

He was ordered to serve a 12 month community order with 80 hours unpaid work and pay costs of £270 at Walsall Magistrates Court on Friday (15 November).

The owls are now in the process of being found permanent new homes.

Barn owls are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and it is an offence to intentionally possess one without a leg ring which is a symbol of authorisation from the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

A barn owl is a protected species and laws are in place to ensure they are not exploited. We are committed to investigating reports of wildlife crime alongside our partners in order to protect vulnerable species, and encourage communities to report offences via 101." >

West Midlands Police, PC Richard Collins:

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