#TheList Benjamin Rudge, born September 1975, and Olena Lobunets, born December 1971, both of 8 Richard Foster Road, Cambridge CB2 8DW – left a herd of fallow deer to starve to death in a field
Benjamin Rudge and Olena Lobunets left 14 fallow deer in a paddock at Clermont Hall, Little Cressingham, Thetford, without food or shelter through the worst of the Beast from the East.
During a visit to the property in February 2018, RSPCA inspectors found one deer had died and another had collapsed. The collapsed animal and three others subsequently died.
Former company director Rudge and Ukrainian national Lobunets had been renting out the mansion and three cottages as a holiday home from £3,956 a week for up to 36 people at a time.
Jonathan Eales, prosecuting for the RSPCA, said a housekeeper was employed to look after the property and the fallow deer but he did not have money for animal feed.
He said the animal welfare charity visited the hall after it was contacted by walkers concerned at the condition of the deer.
Inspectors found the animals were emaciated, while their pen was bare of any grass and infested with molehills.
RSPCA workers began visiting to feed the animals, but three more died.
Mr Eales said post mortem examinations revealed the deer were severely underweight and emaciated.
He said: ‘These deer died as a result of neglect. They were malnourished, dehydrated, they were incapable of surviving in an enclosure where there was insufficient food and no shelter.’
Speaking after the hearing, a spokesman for the RSPCA recalled the state of the deer when they first arrived at the estate.
He said: ‘The deer were very skinny – you could clearly see their ribs and their hip bones were protruding.
‘We hoped to remove the animals but expert vets said they were too weak to be moved at that stage. Vets advised us to feed them and our officers, who had launched an investigation, visited them daily to monitor their condition.
‘Ongoing tests established that, in addition to underfeeding, there were problems with worms and poisonous ragwort in the field so the herd needed to be moved to new pastures before ragwort started to come through in spring.
‘The owners failed to move the herd so vets felt they needed to be taken into our care.’
The spokesperson added: ‘The deer have recovered well and are now living with a private deer keeper.
Sentencing: deprivation order to pass ownership of the surviving deer to the RSPCA. Banned from keeping deer for two years. No costs were awarded and no further penalties were ordered against the couple.