#TheList Lee Thompson, aged 36. of King Edward Terrace, High Road, Laindon, Basildon, Essex SS5 – kept more than 50 exotic animals in appalling conditions; 17 animals died
Thompson was charged with two counts of breaching a ban on keeping a dangerous wild animal, two counts of causing unnecessary suffering to a protected animal, and two counts of keeping a dangerous wild animal without a licence.
In November 2015 officers attended a unit Thompson rented in Cranes Farm Road, Basildon, where they found 45 exotic animals in a very poor condition.
These were 35 different species of snake, one Nile lizard, seven species of spider, one bullfrog and one snapping turtle.
In January 2018 officers searched a bedroom Thompson rented in a house in Burdett Avenue, Westcliff, and found a 4ft long spectacled Caiman in a makeshift pen.
There were also 23 snakes and a fat-tail scorpion. Seven of the snakes had died and been left to decompose.
An Essex Police spokesman said: “Thompson kept wild animals in appalling conditions, ultimately causing 17 to die. Not only did he keep them without a licence but showed no care for their wellbeing or their survival.
“He then twice attempted to evade justice.
“We want to thank the RSPCA, particularly RSPCA inspector Rebecca Benson, for their assistance in helping to ensure the remaining animals were appropriately cared for.”
#TheList Sarah Burnham, 27, and Louise Wood, 61, formerly of Hunloke Road, Holmewood, Chesterfield S42 5RZ – mistreated 19 dogs and 3 cats who were kept in filth and squalor
Wood and Burnham pleaded guilty to causing unnecessary suffering to the 19 dogs and three cats by subjecting them to an environment which was detrimental to their wellbeing between October 2017 and January 2018.
The animals were kept in appalling conditions in their own excrement in dark rooms.
Sentencing Burnham, now of no fixed abode, and Wood, now of Edensor Court, Middlecroft, Chesterfield, were both fined £360 each and were each ordered to pay a £36 victim surcharge and £300 costs. Both Wood and Burnham were also disqualified from keeping animals for life and no application to lift the order will be allowed for ten years.
#TheList backyard breeder Teresa Reynolds, aged 55, of 274 Long Furlong Drive, Slough SL2 2PR – kept dogs and cats in dirty and undersized cages.
Reynolds was convicted of 11 offences of failing to ensure animal welfare. She was prosecuted after a complaint regarding the breeding and selling animals was investigated by the neighbourhood services team of Slough Borough Council (SBC) in 2017.
The court heard how council and Thames Valley Police officers were overwhelmed by the smell of faeces and urine and the sheer number of animals in Reynolds two-bedroom council home.
When Reynolds was asked how many pets there were, she did not know.
Pugs, poodles, cocker spaniels, Yorkshire terriers, shih-tzus and chihuahuas were among the animals found.
SBC Neighbourhood manager Ian Blake told the court how he found 16 dogs stacked up in dirty cages that were too small for them and had no access to water. Some of the animals were caged in pairs.
More animals were found in the garden including a large poodle, who had no access to the property due to a stairgate blocking the way. The only water present for her was in a bucket which contained other items.
Four cats were discovered in a bird aviary in the garden, whose overflowing litter trays were placed next to their water bowls.
The only clean crate found with bedding, food and water inside, contained no animal.
During the trial, it was revealed that officers found two dead puppies in a wheelie bin outside the house.
Reynolds told Mr Blake that she had been unable to feed them after their mother had died.
All 23 cats and dogs were removed from the property and transported to the Summerleaze Veterinary Hospital in Maidenhead, where it was noted that several dogs were heavily soiled, two of the female cats were pregnant.
A tom cat’s fur was so heavily matted it needed to be shaved to prevent long-term suffering.
Documents seized from the home indicated that Reynolds was selling animals from her home and that more than 250 animals had been handled within the property over two years.
Receipts were found for dogs being sold for £1,200, £900 and various other amounts, as well as bank statements with transactions indicating the sale of puppies and kittens.
Complaints about Reynolds breeding and selling animals have dated back to 2010, but this was the first time there was evidence for a prosecution.
The council’s fraud team became involved, who discovered that Reynolds had failed to update the benefits team that she was receiving income from her trading.
As a result, she was additionally found guilty of two counts of fraud after falsely claiming benefits.
Having been signed over to the council, all the animals have been re-homed and are doing well.
Sentence: 12-month community order, 120 hours of unpaid work, a 15 day rehabilitation requirement, £2,000 in legal costs. Seven-year ban on owning any animal.
#TheList Tonya Haughton (DOB 26/11/80) and daughter Carmen Lyth (DOB 21/6/99), both of Blakelow Road, Abbey Hulton, Stoke-on-Trent ST2 – kept dozens of guinea pigs and rabbits in shocking conditions
Carmen Lyth (pictured) and her mother Tonya Laughton pleaded guilty to causing unnecessary suffering to 11 guinea pigs and four rabbits.
The RSPCA was contacted by the Stoke-on-Trent City Council in April 2017 after a council employee became concerned about smells coming from a property in Trowbridge Crescent, Bentilee, where the pair were living at the time.
When an RSPCA inspector attended, she found 42 dead guinea pigs wrapped in puppy training pads in a hutch in the garden, and two bags of dead guinea pigs inside the house.
There were also emaciated rabbits in the garden, and the house was covered in faeces.
Overall, Haughton and Lyth had around 130 animals in the house.
RSPCA inspector Charlotte Melvin said: “There were four cages of guinea pigs in the living room and more guinea pigs kept outside in the garden. There were even more cages dotted around the house.
“We found a dead guinea pig inside the property and when we asked what happened, we were told that the guinea pig was dying that morning but that they hadn’t had time to deal with it.
“The conditions inside the house were shocking and the animals were in terrible states. The rabbits which we found in the garden were so thin that it was a surprise they were still alive.
“It really was such a shock to see animals being kept in this way. It is clear that the animals had been deteriorating for some time and it should never have got to this point.”
The RSPCA had 57 surviving animals signed over to them, who will be rehomed.
Haughton – 12-week suspended sentence. Disqualified from keeping animals for life.
Lyth – 18-month conditional discharge. Disqualified from keeping animals for just 5 years (expires November 2022).
#TheList Keith Ross, Highfield Crescent, Motherwell – kept reptiles, including king cobra, rattlesnake and vipers, in his one-bedroom flat in appalling conditions.
Ross admitted animal neglect after keeping the creatures in his small apartment for six years.
Ross previously ran ‘Keith’s Reptile Parties’ where he charged £80 per hour for attending children’s events with a number of his animals, including the lizards and snakes.
Ross also had turtles, a polecat and a hawk at his flat.
A Scottish SPCA spokesman said: “Ross had a collection of reptiles in his home unlike anything we have seen before. The animals seized from Ross during the searches presented significant difficulty.
“This was a clear case of someone collecting animals and failing to provide for their needs with disastrous results for the animals. Several were caused unnecessary suffering from the appalling conditions.
“Many were on the verge of starvation and one lizard had to be put to sleep after it ate its own substrate (cage litter) from lack of feeding”.
Welfare officers recovered the snakes that Ross had neglected. They included a boomslang tree snake, a boa constrictor, a python and a Californian kingsnake.
Three of the snakes had been crammed into restrictive plastic tubs, had untreated injuries and were not being properly fed.
Ross also kept a deathstalker scorpion, two white-lipped vipers, a saw-scaled viper, a Western diamondback rattlesnake, a puff adder, a king cobra and two black-necked spitting cobras.
Sentencing: Jailed for 18 months. Disqualified for ten years from keeping animals (expires June 2027).
In May 2018 Ross was back in court where he admitted possessing indecent images of children and animals being sexually abused. He fled the country before sentencing but was later captured in Ireland. He was due to be sentenced in August 2018 but details are not known.
#TheList hoarders David Govan (DoB 19/11/1950) & wife Marilyn Govan (DoB 03/09/1953) of Windmill Close, Bassingbourn, Royston SG8 5FJ – prosecuted for antisocial behaviour relating to their 38 dogs.
The council had received regular complaints from neighbours of antisocial behaviour relating to the Govans’ dogs howling and barking, the smell of faeces, and dogs escaping from the property. In total, the couple kept 38 dogs of various breeds at their former property in Hay Green, Royston.
The local authority gave the couple two months to reduce the noise by reducing the number of dogs on the property.
Mrs Govan contacted the council to express displeasure with the way the couple had been treated, and informing officials that they wouldn’t reduce the amount of dogs at the property.
After a second order found the noise levels were still too high, the dogs were then seized from the home by the RSPCA and the police.
The raid was prompted after a neighbour raised concerns about the welfare of the animals.
The council also made an application for a Criminal Behaviour Order against the couple, preventing them from having more than three dogs at the property, having any female dogs on any of the land comprising their property, and allowing dogs to bark, howl, yap or whine, whilst also being required to collect, bag and bin any faeces attributed to their dogs.
As far as we know the couple, who have sold the Hay Green property and moved into nearby Windmill Close, still have custody of the dogs.
#TheList Robert McElhill, born 06/06/1987, former co-owner of the Notting Hill Guest House, 72 Holland Park Avenue, London W11 3QZ and more recently (2018) of 70 Millcroft Road, Cumbernauld, Glasgow G67 2QQ – kept 33 dogs and puppies starving, neglected and living in squalor
McElhill, who co-owned the Notting Hill Guest House with his mother Beatrice Hughes, kept dozens of starving dogs in filthy, squalid conditions at the property.
Officers found 33 dogs of all shapes and sizes including a Great Dane ‘mix’, a Chihuahua, a Rottweiler and a Saluki, also known as an Arabian Greyhound.
Most of the dogs were covered in scars and were found shut inside rooms in the private living quarters.
The floors were covered in faeces and urine; the windows were boarded up or blacked out.
There was no bedding for the animals who were locked in rooms in groups of two to six.
There was even an 18 inch tall chihuahua that was found locked in a cage just 19 inches high. Two other dogs were barricaded in the stairs and there was no clean water.
In the basement police found a sandy coloured lurcher and seven puppies.
The lurcher was extremely underweight; her skin was stretched tightly over her bones.
The puppies were in poor physical condition with faeces matted in their coats and showed poor physical care.
McElhill was found guilty of six counts of animal neglect and four counts of ‘failing to prevent the causing of unnecessary suffering’ to animals.
Sentencing: 200 hours community service; £2000 costs. Banned from owning dogs for 10 years (expires January 2025).
#TheList Crufts medal winner Rachel Mortimore, born 30/07/1954, of Foxdown House, Taunton TA3 7DY – kept 300 animals including dogs, horses, cats, chickens, ferrets and rabbits in squalor.
Rachel Mortimore admitted two charges of causing unnecessary suffering to animals at a hearing in July 2011.
They related to a cat and a dog which were among 300 animals found in squalid conditions at Culmhead’s Foxdown Dog Training Centre in November 2010.
The dog – a Toller retriever – was found with a hole in the side of his face due to an infected abscess in his mouth that had been left untreated.
The cat had an ulcer on her eye that would have “popped” the eye if left untreated.
RSPCA inspectors described the conditions at Mortimore’s dog training centre as ‘filthy, horrible and unbelievable’.
Recorder Michael Parroy QC said that it was clear that Mortimore had far too many animals on the premises to be able to give them proper care.
Mortimore also works as a dog breeder, selling Toller puppies for £750, and has the largest breeding kennels in the country for the breed.
Sentencing: 140 hours of community service; £1,000 in costs. Banned from keeping animals for life but this was later reduced to 18 years on appeal.. Mortimore is allowed to apply to have the ban lifted in nine years from date of conviction, i.e. around July 2020.
#TheList Rosalind Gregson, born circa 1950, originally from Silverdale, Carnforth and as at 2018 living at 1 Laister Court, Bare Lane, Morecambe LA4 6LJ – kept 271 animals in her home in appalling conditions
Gregson originally faced 69 cruelty charges after RSPCA officers discovered 246 dogs, 16 birds, five cats, two kittens, a rabbit and a chinchilla when they raided her detached cottage in September 2003.
She admitted nine charges of causing unnecessary suffering to two Yorkshire terriers, three Shih Tzus, a Bichon Frise, an Old English sheepdog, and two Lhasa Apsos. Five of them had to be put to sleep to end their suffering.
A district judge at Preston magistrates’ court heard that when the RSPCA team raided Gregson’s £500,000 detached house at Silverdale, near Carnforth, Lancs, they were initially “overwhelmed” by the stench of ammonia and faeces. They found the animals living in virtually unlit, rat-infested rooms with little water and food. Most of the water they did have was contaminated with cat litter.
District judge Peter Ward was shown an RSPCA video which showed officers viewing the “dismal and depressing conditions”. The camera pans from cage to cage, showing dogs barely able to sit up. One RSPCA officer is heard to say: “How can they live in this? This is appalling.”
Some of the dogs are lifted out of their cages and held up in view of the camera. One, a Maltese terrier, is shown with her fur matted with what appears to be excrement. An officer says: “She’s in a terrible state.”
Another, a Shih-tzu, has matted fur and appears emaciated. Its weakness and reluctance to stand is attributed by a vet to the muscle wasting in its hind legs. The animal was later put down.
An emaciated Yorkshire terrier had a discharge coming from both eyes. Few of its teeth remained, its nails were overgrown and it had a severe skin infection. It, too, had to be put down.
Tim Bergin, prosecuting, said: “It is not the prosecution case that she maliciously caused cruelty to the animals in her home; simply that she allowed her obsession to collect animals to overwhelm her.”
Gregson initially denied 49 counts of failing to provide the animals with necessary care and attention but later changed her plea and admitted nine counts of causing them unreasonable suffering.
Gregson’s lawyer told the court her client’s obsessive animal collecting began when her son died from a drug overdose 15 years earlier. She said: “This is wholly about a tragic set of circumstances. It’s about sadness, it’s about isolation, it’s about the loss of a child, it’s about despair, it’s about obsession. The list just goes on and on.”
Asked why there were so many animals in the house, Gregson told police: “Because it got out of hand, its just an obsession, I couldn’t stop.”
RSPCA Inspector Sarah Hayland said the scene she found was beyond belief.
“It’s a normal looking property from the outside — and then to be faced with the room full of dogs.
“And we had no idea how many animals were in there, right until the second day when we’d been in all the rooms.
“It’s just the enormity of it, the amount of animals involved is something that I’ve never come across before and hope never to again”.
Sentencing: Jailed for 3 months – later altered to a three year Community Rehabilitation Order. Disqualified from keeping animals for life – overturned in July 2011.