Barn owls rescued from illegal Walsall dealer

Image source, NWCU
Image caption,
Police said six barn owls - including this one - were found when officers searched a man's home

A man who sold barn owls he kept illegally in his back garden has been forced to hand over the protected birds.

Police said Lee Wellings, 45, kept six owls in aviaries at his home on Scholar Walk in Rushall, Walsall.

He has been ordered to serve a 12-month community order.

PC Richard Collins, from the West Midlands force, said Wellings had exploited the owls "for his own financial gain".

Police said officers - in a joint investigation with the National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU) - searched Wellings' home in December last year and found six barn owls.

The birds are in the process of being found new habitats, police say.

It is illegal to keep barn owls - which are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act - without leg rings on the animals proving government authorisation.

Police said Wellings also lied to secure permits to sell them. Two buyers were identified by police who had paid £50 and £65 for owls "in good faith".

Wellings admitted one charge of possessing wild barn owls, two of illegally selling them, and 10 counts of falsifying statements to obtain permits.

As well as the 12-month community order imposed at Walsall Magistrates' Court on Friday, Wellings was ordered to do 80 hours of unpaid work and pay £270 costs.

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