#TheList hoarder Michelle Smith, born c. 1982, of Wester Culvie, Aberchirder, Huntly, Aberdeenshire AB54 7RB – failed to provide adequate diet, environment and veterinary attention to multiple animals in her care
In a case involving 63 animals including 19 dogs and 21 cats as well as ducks and chickens, Smith was summoned to Aberdeen Sheriff Court to face charges of neglect.
Smith pleaded guilty to five charges, including failure to provide veterinary attention, failure to ensure animals’ needs were met by being deprived of food and fresh water, by being kept in an unsuitable environment, failure to protect the animals from suffering/injury and disease and failure to provide an adequate nutritional diet which ultimately led to animals being caused unnecessary suffering.
Commenting on the investigation and court case, senior Scottish SPCA inspector Alison Simpson said, “After receiving a call to our animal helpline regarding welfare concerns I arrived at the locus and was met by three dogs. I noticed a residential caravan which was not used as a residence but rather had cats in pens at the rear interior.
“Opposite the house I saw a rabbit hutch where kittens could be heard.
“I first asked Smith if I could look in the rabbit hutch where I heard the kittens, it was a two-storey hutch and stank of faeces and urine. The kittens were clawing and climbing at the mesh front. Within the hutch there were eight small kittens alive, around four/five weeks old, all were extremely thin, dirty and wet. There were also three dead kittens which appeared to be emaciated.
“After removing the kittens from the hutch and placing them in my van we then entered the caravan and the stench and presence of cat urine and faeces was overwhelming. On initial inspection I noted one kitten running loose and two areas within the caravan which were pens with mesh doors. I also noticed one dead kitten within one of the pens.
“Venturing back outside I noticed four runs containing poultry, in total seven ducks and eight hens, along with two dead ducks. Smith then stated one of the dogs had got into the run that morning which may account for the deaths. The dead ducks appeared extremely thin.
“Upon veterinary examination it was noted that the caravan contained a considerable amount of faeces, both in the litter tray and on the floor which had built up over a period of a minimum of three weeks with little ventilation. There was no food or water available to the cats inside.
“On an initial inspection of the first caravan room and the seven cats inside they were all noted as being underweight, some severely, and there was evidence of chronic eye issues, gingivitis, ear mites and varying degrees of matting/build-up of faeces. The deceased kitten was in an extremely emaciated state.
“Within the second room of the caravan there was another deceased kitten. This room was in a similar state to the first room in the caravan, with faecal matter covering the room and cats. The six kittens in this room were underweight and the deceased kitten was in an extremely thin/emaciated state.
“Once the vet had examined the kittens which had been removed from the rabbit hutch they were found to be in poor body condition and covered faeces and urine. The kittens all had dirty ears and ear mites.
“All poultry examined at the locus were significantly underweight with two being deceased. Two of the hens were quiet, and hunched over, indicating illness. The vet believed the birds had not had their nutritional requirements met for a minimum of seven days. The ducks were in the same condition, two were kept in a pen by themselves as Smith stated they had been injured by a dog earlier on that day. There was a wound on one of the ducks which had scabbed over. We requested food to aid us examining the birds and when we gave this to them, they were ravenous.
“After being removed, the animals were thoroughly examined by a vet and later taken to one of our rehoming centres.
“Smith fully cooperated with our investigation and signed the animals which were removed over to the Society. This meant we were able to rehome them once they had made full recoveries and did not have to wait for sentencing before doing so.
Sheriff Sukhwinder Gill rejected the procurator fiscal’s call for Smith to be prevented from keeping all animals and instead let her keep her eight dogs. She cannot keep any other pets for 10 years.
Sentencing: ten-year ban on owning and keeping animals, excluding dogs, with a further sentence deferred for six months.