A Ceredigion animal sanctuary, which housed more than 50 pigs rescued from harrowing conditions at an illegal slaughterhouse in Pembrokeshire, has applied to the county council for formal permission to keep running.

Sasha Bennett, of Tanrallt, Coxhead, Tregaron, has submitted a certificate of lawful development for Beneath the Wood Animal Sanctuary, which has been running since 2009.

The application, made through agent Rural Advisor Ltd, seeks the continued use of the land as an animal sanctuary for rescued pigs, sheep, horses, dogs and cat, as well as the siting of caravans used for permanent and temporary volunteer accommodation, ancillary facilities, and a kennels and stables for rescued dogs and horses.

The site currently looks after 92 pigs, 12 sheep, two horses, nine dogs, and two cats.

Rural Advisor Ltd said a full planning application is being submitted separately in order to regularise associated elements of development within the site, including the erection in 2020 of a livestock building for the housing of the rescued pigs and a domed timber holiday pod.

Planning law gives immunity to unauthorised uses that have prevailed for a set period of time without enforcement action taken against them, Rural Advisor Ltd says, in making the case for a certificate of lawful development.

In submission, it adds: “There is no clearer example of the achievements of Beneath the Wood Animal Sanctuary that in the case of the 92 pigs which have called the Beneath the Wood Animal Sanctuary their home for the past four years.

“These pigs were rescued from an illegal slaughterhouse in Pembrokeshire. Following a high-profile court case which overturned a Destruction Order for 53 pigs (at the time) the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) stipulated that the animals were to be rehomed permanently with Sasha Bennett, the registered keeper, who had brought the legal challenge.

“The pigs are unable to be moved as they are deemed at risk of having Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies (TSE) due to their consumption of dead animals, bricks, car parts and batteries during their time at the illegal slaughterhouse.”

In October 2019, the pigs were brought to Beneath the Wood Animal Sanctuary; the number of pigs had increased to 85 with a further number of pregnant sows, as they were not separated from boars at a government holding facility, the number ultimately ending up at 92.

As reported in the local press, in 2019 an Action for Animals award was made to Sasha by vegan charity Viva! Which acknowledged that the sanctuary has been in operation since 2009.

The agent also says that, due to the potential TSE risks, Ceredigion was aware the pigs were kept on site.

The agent also detailed animal welfare work on site with sheep, horses, and dogs, the latter released to the care of Beneath the Wood Animal Sanctuary by animal charities such as Little Angels Staffie Rescue, West Wales Poundies dog rescue, Holly Hedge Sanctuary Bristol, and Davis and the former Potter Vets Lampeter, as well as by the police.

Letters of support were provided by the many volunteers at the site.

One of them, Lampeter-based researcher and historian of Chinese medicine Dolly Yang said: “They are God’s gift to humanity and Beneath the Wood Animal Sanctuary is where God’s love shines through the selfless services of Sasha and a couple of her long-term volunteers at the sanctuary.”

The application will be considered by county planners at a later date.