#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 Kelly Smyth, born c. 1978, of Poulton Road, Wallasey CH44 – killed her pet lizard by throwing it from a first- floor window towards police officers
Smyth was found guilty in her absence of two animal cruelty offences at Wirral Magistrates Court in relation to the death of the native Australian lizard, known as a blue-tongued skink.
The court heard how Merseyside Police had attended her first floor flat on June 25, 2018.
When they arrived Smyth told them she no longer wanted her pet dog and they were concerned she would harm it so they led the pet away to their van.
As they took the dog outside, officers said they saw Smyth at her first floor window and heard what they described as a “loud slapping noise.”
They went to the area where the noise came from and found the skink frothing at the mouth and dying on the pavement.
Officers took the seriously injured reptile to a nearby veterinary practice but he had died on arrival and the police referred the case to the RSPCA.
RSPCA inspector Anthony Joynes, who investigated the case, said: “A post mortem revealed this poor skink had suffered a multitude of injuries after being thrown from the window including a broken back, haemorrhage to the brain and blood on the lungs.
“From the point of impact it took minutes to die and must have suffered terribly. It is awful that this pet was left to die in agony on the cold, dark concrete of a pavement for no reason.
“The RSPCA take all cruelty cases involving all animals very seriously and we treat this act involving a small reptile the same as if it was a cat or a dog – as the pain and suffering would be the same.
“This case also acts as a reminder that exotic animals need specialist care and many people are unaware of how much of a commitment these animals are when they take them on as pets.”
Sentencing: Smyth was also given a 12-month community order, a fine of £50, and ordered to pay £150 costs and a £85 victim surcharge. Banned from keeping animals for just three years (expires October 2021).
#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 Charmaine Victoria Louise Collins, born 02/01/1990, of Rosebery Road, Southborne, Bournemouth BH5 2JH – let 61 animals die in her maggot-infested flat
Mother-of-one Collins crammed 196 animals including cats, dogs, guinea pigs, rabbits, hamsters, gerbils and lizards as well as ducks and chickens in to her two-bedroom flat at 25 Hamilton Road in Boscombe before she was raided by police and the RSPCA. Some animals had gone without water and food for at least a week. Of the 196 animals, 61 died.
The court heard that Collins, who had started a degree in veterinary care, had established an animal breeding business called Fairytales with a friend. However, the friend backed out around two weeks before the flat was raided.
Officials found 48 animals in a small shed in the property’s communal garden. Many of the creatures inside – including 30 guinea pigs – were dead at the time, or died shortly afterwards.
Entry was then forced to the flat, which was in darkness and without electricity. As RSPCA inspector Patrick Bailey panned a torch around the dark rooms, the beam fell on a severely dehydrated rabbit, which was “convulsing”.
Officers were cofonfronted with loosely-stacked crates and cages filled with animals and smaller creatures suffocating in plastic containers.
More rabbits were confined to these containers, unable to move in any direction.
An animal carcass infested with maggots was also discovered. Decomposition indicated the creature had been dead for some time.
The RSPCA had first become involved with Collins in April 2016 over “similar issues”. At that time, Collins sought help from officials and some months later had just two dogs and a lizard.
However, she then began buying animals from fairs and shows. Ten days after she was interviewed by police, she travelled to Holland to buy 70 rodents. All have now been seized by the RSPCA.
Collins, who currently works as an assistant for Poole photography business Lite-Box Imagery, admitted six charges relating to the care of the animals.
Sentence: 12-month community order and 30 rehabilitation activity requirement days; total of £330 costs and charges. Banned from keeping any animal for the next 10 years (expires July 2028).
#TheList Stephen D Bowes, born 1971, of 48 Cranleigh Court Road, Yate, Bristol BS37 5DJ – possessed images showing human intercourse with reptiles, horses, goats, donkeys and dogs
Between 8/12/16 and 3/11/17 made category A, B and C images of children and possessed a pornographic image which portrayed, in an explicit and realistic way, persons performing an act of intercourse with live animals or reptiles namely snakes, horses, goats, donkeys and dogs.
Sentencing: Bowes was due to be sentenced on 29/08/18 but the outcome was not reported.
#TheList Robert David Dewar, born 23/04/1983, formerly of Dorchester Road, Weymouth, and more recently Grannie’s Heilan’ Hame, Embo, Dornoch IV25 3QD – caused unnecessary suffering to 11 reptiles, with six found dead at his home
Dewar pleaded guilty to causing suffering to a protected animal at Weymouth Magistrates Court.
He was charged for causing unnecessary suffering to two bearded dragons, a leopard gecko and two crested geckos.
Prosecuting on behalf of the RSPCA, Matthew Knight explained the charge related to a period between September 9 2017 and October 10 2017 whilst Dewar was living on Dorchester Road in Weymouth.
Mr Knight told the court that in October 2017 a bailiff was warranted to enter Dewar’s flat and discovered 11 reptiles – with a python, two corn snakes, a bearded dragon and two leopard geckos found dead.
The RSPCA were unable to pursue charges for the six dead animals as it was not possible to conclusively say how they died, although a vet suspected they had starved to death.
Of the two bearded dragons that were rescued, one had to be put to sleep because of the severity of its condition. The other bearded dragon which was described by Mr Knight in court as being dehydrated and “responsive, but dull” has since recovered and been re-homed.
Addressing the court, Mr Knight said: “There were six dead reptiles in the flat and five alive but in a poor condition.
“The reptiles require a vivarium with UV lighting. They were not given this basic care.”
He added that a number of the animals had no water provided.
Mr Knight said: “It is believed that these animals were left suffering for at least a week but it could have been over a number of months.
“Of the animals that survived, they required significant intervention to help them live.
“He [Dewar] knew how to care for these animals, but simply chose not to.”
Representing himself, Dewar said: “I am sorry. I was having a hard time and everything got on top of me. I was trying to look after myself and not my animals.”
Speaking to the court Dewar’s probation officer added: “He [Dewar] was able to understand how the animals would have felt and has shown remorse for his actions.”
Sentencing Dewar, chairman of the bench Debbie Boitoult said: “We have heard details and seen the suffering these animals underwent. You were aware that these animals needed a certain amount of care that you failed to give.”
Sentencing: Community order of 100 hours of unpaid work to be completed within 12 months. Total of £385 costs and charges. Banned from owning or keeping any animals for 10 years.
#TheList Sarah Pickup, born c. 1979, of Dennis Road, Cambridge CB5 – kept dogs, cats and lizards in appalling conditions at her home; 21 lizards and other exotic creatures found dead.
Pickup pleaded guilty to six offences under the Animal Welfare Act for mistreating dogs, cats and lizards.
Prosecutor Janita Patel told the court that the case came to light after the RSPCA was contacted by someone who had been asked to look after the animals while Pickup was on holiday.
The person was shocked by the conditions in the house and discovered numerous dead reptiles, some of which had been put in plastic bags – while the live reptiles were living in poor conditions.
They also found a Cavalier King Charles spaniel with a buster collar on and a swollen infected ear.
Pickup’s offences in full:
Causing unnecessary suffering to a Cavalier King Charles spaniel called Freddie by failing to seek veterinary care and attention for his ear condition
Failing to meet his needs for adequate flea control
Failing to meet the needs of a cat called Flower, 21 leopard geckos, one chameleon, one plated lizard, one blue-tongued skink, two axolotls, one gecko, and one corn snake, by failing to provide them with a suitable environment
Failing to meet the needs of a chameleon
Causing it unnecessary suffering by failing to investigate and address the cause of its poor bodily condition and weight loss
Failing to meet the needs of 15 leopard geckos and one axolotl by failing to provide an appropriate environment
In total, 26 live reptiles, two amphibians, 21 dead reptiles and 20 dead African land snails were found at the property.
RSPCA inspector Alex Coghlan, who investigated the incident, said: “The conditions at the home were appalling. There was a terrible smell coming from the home and there were dead reptiles just dumped in plastic bags in the garden.
“Many of the live reptiles were being housed in inappropriate conditions, with no water, light or heat, yet the vivariums which did have heaters were just not plugged in or the bulbs had gone out.
“It was heartbreaking to see so many animals just left in such awful conditions.
“Exotic animals need specialist care and sadly these animals had not been looked after appropriately.”
All animals were signed over into the care of the RSPCA and taken to a specialist facility.
Sadly one leopard gecko had to be put to sleep to prevent further suffering.
Sentencing: 12-week custodial sentence, suspended for 12 months; total of £415 costs and charges; 40 hours of rehabilitation with the probation service. Banned for life from keeping animals.
#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.