Crematorium Owner Given Sentence for Offences Involving Horses
Allan McMaster, the owner of Swan Pit Pet Crematorium in Gnosall, Staffordshire has been given a suspended prison sentence after pleading guilty to misrepresentation. The 52-year-old admitted to deceiving his customers; they had been told that their horses were cremated when the carcasses were still in his yard.
Mr. McMaster also admitted to animal by-product offences. The convictions have come less than a year after he pleaded guilty to five charges of fraud and four of failing to comply with the regulations for handling horse carcasses. He was fined over £6,000 on that occasion but allowed to keep his business open.
Pets Discovered in Freezer
In November 2015, District Judge Jack McGarva described the crematorium as like 'something out of a horror movie'. Several pets including cats and dogs were discovered in a chest freezer, despite the fact that McMaster had claimed to have returned their ashes to their owners.
There was a great degree of consternation that McMaster had been allowed to continue operating his business. Now, he has been handed a 12-week prison sentence, suspended for one year. He has also been ordered to undertake 250 hours of unpaid work and to pay a fine of £2,000. He has betrayed the trust of his customers and had failed to keep accurate records of his activities.
Horses Carcasses Found in Yard
Allan McMaster had told grieving customers that he had cremated their horses when he had not. Trading Standards officers visited his premises following an anonymous tip off and discovered chest freezers piled with dead pets. They identified some of the animals via their microchips and performed DNA testing on the ashes that customers had received. One urn of ashes that was thought to be those of a pet dog, were found to be the remains of a horse.
Since it has first opened in 2005, many customers had used the crematorium. Mr McMaster's father owns the kennel and cattery business located next door.
The Trading Standards officers also found plastic bags full of ashes and horse carcasses in the yard. Clinical waste from a veterinary practice was also found and appeared to have been there for at least five years.
McMaster had been knowingly handing his unwitting customers the wrong ashes he had been charging a minimum of £40 for cremations, many of which clearly hadn’t taken place. One client had paid £300 for the cremation of their horse. McMaster had been collecting up to 20 horses each month and had also started taking smaller animals. On the occasion of his first conviction his defence had been that he had struggled to cope with the volume of business that he had attracted. His lawyer claimed that Mr McMaster hadn't set out to be deceitful but had rather mismanaged his business.
Following his initial offences, McMaster was allowed to continue to operate and checks were carried out on his operation. Clearly these were not sufficient to prevent him from offending again.