A UK man who ran a sanctuary for sick and injured birds has been banned from keeping animals for life after neighbours filmed him abusing owls at home.
William McKenzie, 68, was convicted of nine animal welfare charges and five offences of causing fear and distress to the birds.
Shrewsbury magistrates' court sentenced the bird keeper to 16 weeks jail, suspended for two years.
The court heard the RSPCA was alerted to McKenzie by concerned neighbours who filmed him abusing and tormenting his birds over a two-year period.
The disturbing footage shows McKenzie kicking at one owl while it is tethered to a chain and viciously pushing another out of the way with his foot.
In another instance he pushes a lawn mower towards one of the chained owls and when the terrified bird flies onto the machine to escape he grabs it roughly by the wing and throws it to the side.
McKenzie, a well-known bird lover who once appeared on the BBC to speak about rescuing birds, denied the charges and said the animals were "like his children".
"These owls were like my family … I would never punch or kick these birds, I would rather punch or kick a human being to any animal,” he told the court.
The RSPCA seized the birds, including 19 owls, five hawks, one peregrine falcon and one American kestrel and MacKenzie was also ordered to wear an electronic tag for six months.
RSPCA inspector Dave McCartney said McKenzie's behaviour was particularly disturbing because he claimed to be rescuing the birds.
"For some birds there was no escape — they were tethered when they were hit," Mr McCartney said.
Sources: BBC News, The Daily Mail
Author: Alys Francis. Approving editor: Matt Henry.