February 10, 2022 12.15 pm

Renewed animal welfare concerns at Whisby Garden Centre

The centre said “we are not under investigation by anybody”

A former Whisby Garden Centre employee has spoken out about alleged animal neglect during her time at the Lincoln attraction, amid a wave of renewed concerns by visitors and former staff.

Bryony Finch worked at Whisby Garden Centre for less than a month in June last year before claiming she was dismissed for not having enough experience.

She voiced concerns about the welfare of animals at the park on social media, and responses mounted of experiences and alleged neglect.

It’s not the first time local people have questioned the health of animals at the park, but owners continue to argue the animals in their care have a “clean bill of health” and claimed “we are not under investigation by anybody”.

Bryony said she was the primary carer for more than 100 animals, but saw many die in her time at the business. She regularly flagged up issues to management.

In a social media post, which has been shared almost 300 times, she claims she hand-reared and arranged vet care for a newborn lamb who had been stranded, away from its mother and attacked by crows.

Xena’s eye had to be removed after she was attacked by crows, according to a former employee at Whisby Garden Centre.

Its eye had been destroyed and its ears and lip bitten, but ‘the boss was unclear which vet they used’, she said.

Sadly, the lamb died after Bryony was fired by the company.

“Her twin also died after being found in a different area of the field.”

Bryony told The Lincolnite: “I would like to say that I feel let down by the large animal welfare organisations. I spent so much time getting Xena (the lamb) into good health and the other animals.

“I spent a lot of time reporting Whisby and speaking to APHA in the hopes something would change and it hasn’t. I am going to be petitioning for a new law shortly that would stop something like this happening again.”

Bryony with Xena the lamb.

Centre Director Joanna Mcguire issued a statement to The Lincolnite, which said: “In response to the post about Xena the lamb who unfortunately died in September 2021. She was abandoned by her mother from birth before she had chance to have her first drink of milk.

“She was taken to the vets on several occasions and despite all our best efforts to keep her alive she unfortunately died.  This was upsetting for all our members staff and public who knew her.

“Animal parks are subjected to yearly visits from Government bodies, we have been given a clean bill of health. We are not under investigation by anybody.”

Bryony felt that other animals at the centre were also in a poor condition.

A recent visitor to the centre Tammy Faulkner said she saw a number of goats in desperate need of medical attention and foot care last month, and when she returned again a week later she claimed there had been no improvement.

She said she owns her own goats so understands their behaviour and how they need looked after. She spoke to staff at the centre to air her concerns and said she would return a week later before reporting the matter to the RSPCA.

After returning to the centre, Tammy said: “There is a kid who is only a matter of weeks old who is also limping. I am saddened and disgusted. These poor animals deserve so much better.”

Centre Director Joanna Mcguire told The Lincolnite: “The goats that have been mentioned on another social media post are under the care of our vet. Any problem such as this takes time to treat, but they are being treated.

Tammy Faulkner visited the centre twice in two weeks in January 2022, where she saw the ear tag had come off the goat who she said was “left with a big hole that has not been treated”.

“We have many animals that have been with us for years. Inevitably some will come to the end of their natural life here with us.

“We care about all of our animals and we take any health issues very seriously. We are open every day to the public so please come along and see for yourself how well cared for our animals are.”

Reporting concerns to authorities

Bryony reported concerns to authorities and organisations, including RSPCA and APHA in July 2021.

She flagged up “a number of concerns with the sheep, goats, horses, chickens and other small animals they have, including the use of rat poison and the disposal of dead animals”. She also later reported concerns about bird flu to APHA in December 2021.

Bryony with Xena the lamb, who later sadly died.

When replying to her email in July, APHA said it had “passed this on to the veterinary department investigating your concerns”.

APHA told The Lincolnite it does not comment on individual cases.

In a statement, an APHA spokesperson said said:“We take breaches of animal welfare legislation very seriously and investigate every allegation that is reported to us. We will always take appropriate action where welfare regulations are breached.”

The RSPCA and Lincolnshire Trading Standards were also unable to comment on specific cases.

Lincolnshire Trading Standards advise that any animal welfare concerns should be reported to them through the Citizens Advice consumer service.

Mark Keal, Lincolnshire Trading Standards manager, said: “We take reports of animal health concerns very seriously, and if anyone is worried about the welfare of farmed animals, they can report this to us through the Citizens Advice consumer service. Visit citizensadvice.org.uk/consumer or call 0808 2231133.

“When we receive complaints – depending on the nature and severity of the report – we can inspect the premises, arrange vet visits, provide advice, work with the business to improve practices, or even remove animals in extreme circumstances. Your reports help us to keep animals safe in Lincolnshire.”