#TheList Dennis Thorne, born c. 1976, of Kington Magna, Gillingham, Dorset SP9 – failed to care for goats, ferrets and poultry on his smallholding
Thorne, who is a Romany gypsy, pleaded guilty to six offences under animal health and welfare legislation following an investigation by Dorset Council Trading Standards. This included four offences under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 of causing unnecessary suffering to a flock of 30-40 poultry, two goats and two ferrets, by failing to provide them with appropriate care and one offence of failing to inspect his animals at regular intervals.
He also pleaded guilty to an offence of failing to tag his two goats, which is legally required to prevent animal disease spread.
In March 2019, trading standards officers visited land Thorne rented at Okeford Fitzpaine, near Sturminster Newton. They discovered the carcasses of around 20 ducks, chicken and geese littering the animal enclosure. The few surviving poultry were emaciated and in filthy conditions.
Two emaciated goats were also found in a small pen with no clean water or dry lying area.
In a nearby barn were cages containing the carcasses of two ferrets. The cages were filthy and all of the drinking containers were empty. Despite having received previous advice from the team, the goats were not tagged.
All the animals remaining in Thorne’s possession were seized by Trading Standards under the Animal Health Act and then cared for by the RSPCA. Thorne later agreed to give up his ownership of them.
The court was advised that Thorne had received a formal caution from the RSPCA in 2009 for causing unnecessary suffering to a horse.
Sentencing: 14 weeks’ imprisonment, suspended for 12 months. Community Order of 200 hours of unpaid work and 20 days of rehabilitation. Ordered to pay £715. Banned from keeping all animals for 10 years.
#TheList Steffan Lee Harris, born 17/12/93, and Barbara Ray Howell, born 21/08/93, of Gorwyn, Tenby Road, St Clears, Carmarthen SA33 4JN – kept dozens of dogs in shocking conditions at illegal puppy farm
Steffan Lee Harris and partner Barbara Ray Howell pleaded guilty to animal welfare offences, running a dog breeding business without a licence, and consumer offences relating to the advertising of dogs online.
Animal inspectors found starving and sick dogs being held in sheds and barns at premises operated by the couple who sold puppies online while pretending to be private sellers.
Paul Hobson, prosecuting, told the court how the couple advertised on a website called, ironically, he said, preloved.co.uk.
One buyer paid £225 for a puppy from a caravan the pair rented at Waun Dwni farm, Tanygroes. The animal became ill before the buyer got back home to Cardiff and they ended up paying £700 in vet’s bills.
Mr Hobson said the puppy had not been microchipped, vaccinated or treated for fleas as the couple had claimed in their advertisement.
A major investigation followed, first by Ceredigion County Council and then by the RSPCA.
Inspectors found 82 dogs being kept in poor conditions – 49 breeding females, 12 males and 21 puppies ready for sale.
Many of the dogs were kept in small enclosures with little light or access to fresh air with poor or muddy bedding and sharp corners and low-hanging electrical cables across the pens.
A lurcher could hardly move, a terrier was tied to a breeze block and a collie had a body score of one out of nine and was close to death.
Another dog was kept in a sealed container and it appeared impossible for anyone to get in to feed or water her, said Mr Hobson.
Inspectors also found pigs squealing through lack of food and water, and chickens that appeared not to have been fed or given access to water. One chicken collapsed in front of them.
The court heard Harris, who was present during the inspection, was “less than cooperative” during the process.
Harris and Howell both admitted cruelty offences in relation to the pigs and Harris to the chickens.
Mr Hobson said further investigation showed that Harris had a flock of 110 sheep on nearby land, which he rented.
The owner became concerned because he did not seem to be there to look after them and inspectors found sheep carcasses that should have been disposed of properly.
After Harris was made aware of their concerns the sheep disappeared, apart from 19 which he seemed to have simply abandoned.
Mr Hobson said an initial financial investigation suggested the couple had banked £150,000 between 2013 and 2018 through the sale of puppies.
A Proceeds of Crime Act investigation is underway to determine how much money could been confiscated from them. That matter will be settled at a court hearing on 15 November, 2019.
After his arrest Harris said he wanted to get the puppy farm up and running before applying for a licence.
Howell said she only looked after the paperwork.
For Harris and Howell James Hartson said he accepted that anyone seeing the photographs of the dogs could not fail to be mortified.
“They had ambitions for a business but lost control. It is likely the financial consequences will be punitive,” he added.
Mr Hartson urged the judge not to impose banning orders preventing the defendants from owning or being concerned in the care of dogs as that would effectively stop Harris from carrying out his work as a herdsman.
Judge Peter Heywood said animals were defenceless and Harris and Howell had housed them in totally inappropriate surroundings.
“This was a significant commercial enterprise and Harris was the driving force,” he added.
“You were in it to make money and had no regard for the welfare of the animals.”
The judge said Harris, who cannot read or write, had been the “driving force” behind the enterprise while Howell had assisted him.
He said he would be failing in his public duty if he suspended Harris’ sentence, but took into account that Howell had a young child when sentencing her.
Sentencing: Harris was jailed for six months (half to be served on licence) while Howell was given a four-month suspended sentence and ordered to complete a rehabilitation activity requirement. Both were made the subject of banning orders preventing them from owning or being concerned in the care of dogs, chickens, and sheep for the next five years.
#TheList minors aged 16 and 17 years from Milford Haven – stole a tame pet chicken from her owner and tortured her to death.
Chicken Daisy was subjected to a prolonged and brutal attack at the hands of two sadistic savages and others, during which she was chased, set alight and had her neck hacked at with garden shears. She was finally killed with a pitchfork. The pet’s agonising ordeal was filmed for Snapchat and shared with other feral yobs in the group for their sick entertainment.
Daisy’s ordeal took place at the home of a third youth who was investigated but not charged.
In court a veterinary surgeon described the youths’ actions as “gratuitous torture”.
Daisy’s owner Michelle Owen wrote a victim impact statement which was read to the court.
“When I discovered Daisy was gone I blamed myself, I thought I hadn’t secured the coop. My youngest two children were devastated when Daisy had gone, they were crying over her,” she said.
“Daisy was very tame and friendly, it’s not the same going to the coop. I always thought my garden was safe and secure, now I don’t leave my dogs out in case they disappear.
“When I think about what happened that night and the way Daisy suffered, it goes beyond cruelty.
“She was a part of the family, more than just a chicken.”
Defending the youths in court, Mike Kelleher said that the pair were facing the consequence of their “reprehensible” actions.
He said: “This was a cruel and nasty horrible incident. However it started it went horribly, horribly wrong. They are here today to face the consequences.”
RSPCA Cymru has described the incident as “horrifying” and expressed concern at the age of those responsible.
“This poor chicken was subject to the most horrendous treatment – taken, beaten, stabbed and set alight,” said RSPCA inspector Keith Hogben.
“I shudder to think what the poor animal went through.
“The offences were horrifying, and it is always deeply worrying when young people commit such crimes. They will now be subject to our Breaking the Chain programme – which highlights the impact acts like this have on animals and their welfare standards.
“RSPCA Cymru wants to inspire a future generation of animal ambassadors – who share our compassion and empathy for our fellow living creatures. Hopefully, this prosecution sets a clear statement that behaviours like this are totally unacceptable and will not be tolerated.”
David Allen, head of education at RSPCA , said: “Clearly, these were disgusting offences and it is particularly worrying that young people are committing such acts. Fortunately, we know most young people will be horrified by what happened in Milford Haven.
“Our new Generation Kind scheme brings together a series of initiatives – including those in the classroom, support for teachers, programmes to support vulnerable looked-after and disadvantaged young people, and those targeted at youth offenders.
“It is hoped that Generation Kind will help create a generation of individuals who are kind, compassionate and caring towards animals.”
The youths pleaded guilty to an Animal Welfare Act offence, namely causing the chicken to suffer unnecessarily.
Sentencing: 12-month referral order, which includes the RSPCA intervention initiative mentioned above. The older youth was ordered to pay £380 in compensation, costs and charges and the younger one was ordered to pay courts and charges totalling £400. They were both banned from keeping any animal for a period of 12 months.
#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.
#TheList Chase Alan English, born 17/08/1986, of Gelliarael Road, Gilfach Goch, Porth CF39 8SY and Dean David Evans, born 27/06/1983, of The Heathlands, Gilfach Goch, Porth CF39 8TT – neglected chickens and ducks on an allotment
English and Evans admitted causing unnecessary suffering to 17 domestic fowls, by failing to ensure they had a nutritionally balanced diet.
The pair also pleaded guilty to failing to meet the needs of 20 domestic fowls, including a failure to provide a suitable environment, and a suitable diet.
RSPCA Cymru attended a Gilfach Goch allotment to find birds kept in horrendous conditions, and many appearing very hungry.
The animals involved were the responsibility of both men, as part of an agreement reached concerning the stocking of an allotment they were jointly responsible for.
It is believed the men failed to communicate effectively on which of them would provide day-to-day care for the fowl, which led to “shocking levels” of neglect.
A number of birds were found dead at the allotment. Another bird died in veterinary care.
RSPCA inspector Simon Evans said: “These poor domestic fowl were left in hugely inappropriate conditions, and subjected to shocking levels of neglect.”