#TheList Rebecca Dawn McHugh, born 08/11/1981 of Boulevard, Hull HU3 – left animals to starve to death in her abandoned pet shop
Rebecca ‘Becky’ McHugh has been disqualified from keeping caged exotics, rabbits, reptiles, guinea pigs and caged birds for life, after a prosecution case brought by the RSPCA.
In January 2018, McHugh was convicted in her absence of four offences under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 and a warrant was issued for her arrest.
The RSPCA was called to Hull Pets and Garden on Beverley Road in June 2018, almost five months after the shop closed.
RSPCA inspector Jilly Dickinson said: “The shop closed down in January, and I attended in June after energy suppliers entered to switch off the supply and found the exotics – it appears they had simply been left behind after the shutters had gone down for the final time.
“Five animals were alive, but only three of these – a corn snake and two bearded dragons – survived.
“The bearded dragons were underweight, and one of them had a horrendous burden of mites, leaving them unable to open their eyes, lethargic, anaemic and dehydrated.
“There was an underweight leopard gecko with long standing metabolic bone disease and subsequent current and historic fractures, and eye problems which were untreatable – meaning that they unfortunately had to be put to sleep.
“A Tegu lizard was described by the vet as being in the worst condition he had ever seen – completely emaciated, dehydrated and lethargic. The Tegu unfortunately didn’t pull through and died not long after coming into our care.”
The surviving animals were signed over to the RSPCA and have now been rehomed.
Sentencing: two-year community order including 250 hours of unpaid work; total of £385 costs and charges. Disqualified for life from keeping caged exotics, rabbits, reptiles, guinea pigs and caged birds.
#TheList Briony Coster, born c. 1976, of no fixed above but with links to Liskeard, Cornwall, and Paignton in Devon – abandoned her pet parrots in an empty property
Coster admitted leaving an African grey parrot, who was found in a dirty cage with stale water, and a blue and gold macaw, who was discovered in a cluttered room on a stand with some food and stale water, alone in a property in Liskeard for six days in July 2018.
Both birds – which were underweight when they were rescued – were removed with the authority of the landlord, who had repossessed the property, and taken to a vets for examination.
RSPCA deputy chief inspector Suzy Hannaby, who investigated for the animal welfare charity, said: “There is never an excuse for simply walking away and leaving an animal to potentially face a long slow death from starvation.
“There is help available for those who, for whatever reason, find themselves unable to provide for their animals and we encourage people to seek out this help, rather than abandoning an animal.”
The two birds, which have since recovered in foster care, will be found new homes.
Sentencing: 12-month conditional discharge. Fines and charges of £470. Banned from keeping all avian species for two years.
#TheList Natalie Keenan, born c. 1989, and David Knight, born c. 1977, both of Sandon Old Road, Meir, Stoke-on-Trent ST3 – kept 23 pets – including a barn owl, a fox and a raccoon dog – inside a smelly and flea-ridden house of horrors
David Knight pleaded guilty to five charges related to animal cruelty, while Natalie Keenan admitted four offences under the Animal Welfare Act.
The pair’s mini-zoo was discovered by chance when a utility company official went round to the Meir home to execute a warrant as they hadn’t paid their gas bill.
He alerted the RSPCA, who were confronted by the stench of neglect, with piles of dog poo in the kitchen, rotting chickens in a snake tank and animals covered in fleas.
Other creatures – from pets to exotics to wild animals – were being kept in tiny filthy cages, with barely enough room to move and without ready access to water.
One terrier-type dog, called Lexi, was in such a poor condition that she had to be put to sleep.
Hazel Stevens, prosecuting on behalf of the RSPCA, said Lexi was experiencing ‘significant suffering’. She was virtually blind, emaciated with protruding bones, had little fur and an infected tumour that was hidden underneath a ‘foul-smelling mess’.
The dog was found curled up on a pile of dirty nappies and had to be carried out of the house as she couldn’t walk.
The couple also had:
another dog, Mocha the French bulldog
a cat called Gizzy, who both had skin and flea problems;
a barn owl caged up in a bedroom
a fox living in a cage in another room;
a racoon dog
a bearded dragon
and an African grey parrot called Charlie.
RSPCA Inspector Charlotte Melvin said: “When I arrived at the property the couple wouldn’t let me inside so I waited outside for over two hours until police arrived.
“During that time the family carried bin bag after bin bag of rubbish out of the house.
“When I finally went inside it wasn’t what I was expecting at all. Even though they’d been clearing out for two hours it was still absolutely filthy and the animals were being kept in horrifying conditions.
“There was cage after cage and animal after animal. The rooms were strewn with rubbish, all of the animals’ accommodation was filthy and their welfare needs were clearly not being met.
“It was disgusting and it was mass-scale neglect.”
The other animals remain in RSPCA care and can now be rehomed or moved to suitable keepers.
“Many of these animals simply shouldn’t be kept as pets let alone kept like this,” Inspector Melvin added.
“To see these poor animals living in such squalor was heartbreaking. I’m just glad they can all now have a second chance at find loving new homes where their needs will be properly catered to.”
Sentencing: 12-month community order including a 30-hour rehabilitation requirement. Total of £235 each in costs and charges. Both were disqualified from keeping animals for three years.
#TheList animal sanctuary owner Sara Jane Ross, born 01/02/1954, of Gardeners Cottage, Chalky Lane, Boughton-under-Blean, Faversham ME13 9SP – failed to meet the needs of horses, cats, dogs and birds in her care
Ross founded the Animal Sanctuary UK, based in Lake End Road, Dorney, Windsor, Berkshire, which was raided by the RSPCA on May 31, 2017.
The sanctuary had fallen into a state of disrepair with dilapidated, vermin-infested sheds housing animals, abandoned industrial machinery lying around and piles of litter and manure in animal enclosures.
RSPCA experts had reported horses lying or standing in their own urine or faeces on boggy paddocks that did not have enough grass. They criticised a lack of food and the presence of flies and vermin – with rats running in and out of the animals’ cages.
Seven cats and eight dogs were confined together inside a single caravan.
Vast swathes of litter were also found where the animals slept, as well as dead rats and mice strewn about. Inspectors found three adult cats confined to a cage only big enough for a kitten.
Other livestock were kept in cramped conditions while some stood as high as 6ft off the ground on rotting hay. They were suffering numerous diseases and many were kept in tiny cages which were unfit for purpose.
The judge saw further clips of the video which showed birds kept in tiny cages with small rings attached to their legs cutting into the flesh. Included also was a turkey kept in a tiny living space fit only for small birds.
Hazel Stevens, prosecuting on behalf of the RSPCA, said that the appalling conditions were found after whistleblowers reported the cruelty, abuse and lack of care.
The prosecutor said: ‘Statements from various volunteers suggest the abuse had been ongoing for some time and this abuse took place in a commercial context.
‘Volunteers were allowed to manage and run the farm who had insufficient experience or training to be running such a farm.’
‘The RSPCA had in fact discovered that she (Ross) had hidden many of the animals off-site. Many of those animals have not since re-appeared and could not be found in a second RSPCA check.’
Ross first set up the now-disbanded Horse Refuge in 1994 before opening The Animal Sanctuary UK in June 2012.
She pleaded guilty to six charges of failing to meet the needs of the animals and birds in her care.
District judge Sophie Toms told her: “Something went very badly wrong. I accept you had no intention of mistreating any animals.
“In your mind you were doing your best but your best was not good enough.”
Nigel Weller, representing Ross, said she had been the victim of a hate campaign.
He said: “Some of them are in court. They have ‘trolled’ my client over the internet running down everything she does.
“They bombarded Windsor and Maidenhead Council with thousands of complaints.”
The council subsequently withdrew from a deal to help her move to a better site in Bell Lane, Eton Wick.
Mr Weller said Ross had suffered a serious accident four months before the raid when a horse had trampled her, injuring her foot so badly that she needed four operations and had been unable to attend to the sanctuary as she would have liked to.
He said: “She has been devoted to her sanctuary since 2012. She sold her house in 2005 to devote her assets and money to looking after animals. For 38 years she has been involved in sanctuary work.”
Judge Toms said that the problems on the site clearly dated back to before Ross’ accident.
Ross’s co-defendant Hayley Poturici, born July 1992, of Frensham Walk, Farnham Common, who worked at the sanctuary, faced no further action after she accepted an official RSPCA caution.
Sentencing: ordered to do 135 hours of unpaid work and pay £750 costs. Disqualified from keeping animals for five years (later reduced to 12 months on appeal. Deprivation order issued preventing Ross’s dogs being returned to her.
#TheList Stuart Baker, born c. 1985, of Stopford Street,Ince, Wigan WN2 2AU – kept several dogs and exotic birds in disgusting conditions without food or water
Nightclub bouncer Stuart Baker pleaded guilty jointly with his father, Norman Baker, of causing unnecessary suffering to his pets, which included a litter of nine rottweiler/lab cross puppies, by failing to provide them with a suitable environment to live in.
He also admitted failing in a duty of personal responsibility to ensure animal welfare with the constant supply of fresh drinking water.
An arrest warrant was issued for Norman Baker who failed to turn up at court. The outcome of the case against him is unknown.
Tony Stock, prosecuting for the RSPCA, said that inspectors had been called to the pair’s home in Warrington Road, Higher Ince, to assist police after reports that two dogs had been found roaming the neighbourhood.
When RSPCA inspector Louise Showering got no answer at the Bakers’ home she looked through the front window and was confronted with an appalling scene of neglect.
The entire living room floor, a dog crate and the sofa and chairs were covered in dog faeces and rubbish, and could be smelt from the outside.
Inspector Showering and colleagues had to wear special protective clothing and face masks to protect their own health when they later legally entered the property. In fact, the acrid smell from dog urine was so strong that they were forced to take it in turns alternately checking the rooms, to avoid being overcome by the fumes.
No food or water was available for the animals, only empty bowls.
All downstairs rooms in the house were in a similar disgraceful state, with one containing a bird cage with a dead cockatiel lying in its own faeces.
The two parent dogs were so aggressive that they had to be sedated before they could be removed by the RSPCA,
The three-month-old puppies were found to be worm-infested and were very frightened of human contact because they hadn’t been socialised.
When offered food and water they ate and drank ravenously and it was a vet’s opinion that they hadn’t eaten or drunk for at least 48 hours.
He also told the court that continuous breathing of the contaminated air would cause harm to the animals’ health.
The vet believed that the cockatiel had died within 24 hours of being found and he believed that “sporadic nutrition” would have been a significant factor.
Baker said problems occurred because he had been forced to work away from home and leave his father to look after their pets.
He said: “The problems have come from a series of unfortunate events.
“I was in a relationship with a violent girl who left me trapped in a spiral of debt.”
Although Baker’s male rottweiler/labrador cross dog had to be put down after attacking officials, the RSPCA successfully re-homed the rottweiler bitch and her nine puppies, plus a green parrot.
Sentencing: three-month suspended prison sentence; £2,140 costs. Banned from keeping any animals for life.