A young falconer who helped save a North East bird of prey centre is facing a string of animal cruelty charges.
Thomas Burford took over the reins at the centre at Barn at Beal, in north Northumberland, when it was threatened with closure earlier this year.
But, less than a year later, the 22-year-old is facing 12 animal cruelty and neglect charges relating to birds he kept at the centre and at his home in Benton Road, High Heaton, Newcastle.
The charges involve numerous birds of prey, including various breeds of falcons, Harris hawks, runner ducks, baby barn owls, European eagle owls, American kestrels, chaco and African spotted owls, red-trailed buzzards, a merlin hybrid, a bengal owl and a showy owl.
It was alleged that Burford failed to treat a foot injury of a peregrine falcon, which led to its death, as well as causing a harris hawk to be dragged along the ground by a lure.
Other charges allege he failed to treat infections of and provide clean living environments for other birds, as well as keeping them in filthy cages with dirty drinking water.
It was also alleged he kept some in a garage with insufficient ventilation, light, and protection from harsh weather.
It was claimed the allegations took place between July and October this year.
Burford appeared at Newcastle Magistrates’ Court where he entered no pleas to any of the charges after an application to adjourn the case by defending solicitor Michael Crowe, was rejected.
The case was listed for a two-day trial in April, although Burford is expected back at court to officially enter pleas before that date.
Burford took over the running of the Barn and Beal bird of prey centre earlier this year. The centre houses his birds, as well as other people’s, but he was in charge of caring for them all and running the business.
As previously reported, Burford was born in Malaysia and moved to the North East aged eight.
From a young age, he claimed fell in love with falconry.
Three years ago, he set up a bird of prey exhibit at Whitehouse Farm, near Morpeth, until, earlier this year, he took over at Barn at Beal.
Although he is no longer at the centre, his company TJ Falconry, is now operating as a mobile display team carrying out shows and displays.