#TheList Sophie Esnee, born c. 1990, of Belmont Street, Hull HU9 – threw her pet snake at a neighbour; failed to provide a suitable living environment for the snake.
Serial troublemaker and alleged drug addict Esnee was fined £100 and banned from keeping reptiles for seven years, for failing to provide a suitable living environment for the snake, known as Lucifer.
Esnee received no separate penalty for a further offence in neighbouring Estcourt Street on February 12, 2018, when she failed to protect Lucifer from “pain, suffering, injury and disease”, by “taking the snake out on a February evening and throwing the snake at another person”.
Both offences under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 were proved in Esnee’s absence at Hull Magistrates’ Court.
Lucifer was ordered to be taken into the care of the RSPCA to be rehomed.
#TheList Frankie Jane Kane, born 03/07/99 of Printfield Walk, Woodside, Aberdeen AB24, and Yasmin Doherty (aka Yasmin Walker), born circa 2000, of Marischal Court, Castlehill, Aberdeen AB11 – filmed themselves abusing an escaped boa constrictor in the street
Vile Frankie Kane and Yasmin Doherty shared twisted videos of themselves mistreating the snake, named Esmerelda, on social media site Snapchat.
Kane hurled the escape animal 10ft across an Aberdeen street and Doherty swung her above her head.
The disturbing footage which they captured in the early hours of July 4, 2018, showed Esmerelda “writhing in pain” and sparked widespread outrage on social media.
Kane later confessed to causing the animal unnecessary suffering and throwing her, while Doherty admitted the same but also pleaded guilty to “spinning the snake around” and causing her to suffer injury.
Fiscal depute Rebecca Clark said: “The snake’s owner, who had it for three years, kept it in an enclosure in his bedroom and noticed it was missing – but thought it was elsewhere in the property.
“It was 3am when the two accused were outside the Marischal Court block of flats and found it.
“Both were under the influence of alcohol at the time, and Doherty began filming the snake on her mobile phone and posting it on Snapchat.
“Kane then picked it up and threw it several feet across the road.
“The snake appeared to be moving in a distressed state and Doherty said ‘it’s real’ before before picking it up, spinning it around above her head and throwing it.”
A passer-by intervened at that point and handed Esmerelda in to the police, who gave her to the Scottish SPCA.
Ms Clark added that the 4ft snake was “regurgitating blood”, and “appeared to be convulsing in pain”.
She said: “The chief inspector described the animal as writhing about in agony, coughing up blood and clearly dying.
“The decision was made to humanely destroy the snake, which had severe internal injuries.”
Kane’s solicitor maintained that his client did not realise Esmerelda was a live animal at first.
He said: “She though it was a fake snake, but quickly became aware it was real after picking it up and hearing it hiss at her.
“She should have placed it on the ground but she threw the snake through the air.”
Defence agent Tony Burgess said Doherty had lost her job as a result of the incident and is now “struggling to find her way back into employment”.
He added: “She accepts that her behaviour was completely reprehensible.”
Mr Burgess said the snake may have suffered some of her injuries when she escaped from her home and fell “from quite high up” on the multi-storey block.
Sheriff Aitken said he had “limited sympathy” for the teenagers, whose troubles he said were “nobody’s fault but their own”.
He added: “I hope it was drunken stupidity that led to this, rather than an underlying defect in your character. People do not like those who abuse animals.”
The Scottish SPCA welcomed the sentencing of Kane and Doherty but expressed disappointment that no order was imposed preventing them from keeping pets.
Scottish SPCA chief inspector John Carle said: “Although we are pleased to hear this sentence has been passed down we are disappointed a ban was not also imposed.
“Doherty and Kane caused cruel and unnecessary suffering to Esmerelda the snake.
“Treating any animal this way is despicable behaviour and the injuries caused ultimately contributed to the death of the poor snake.”
Sentencing: Kane was ordered to perform 80 hours of unpaid work in the next six months, and Doherty 120 hours. No ban on keeping animals was imposed on either of them.
#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 Mia Beth Connor, born 21/12/97, formerly of Rockhampton Avenue, East Kilbride, and now of Greenfaulds Crescent, Cumbernauld G67 2PJ – for shocking neglect of cats, dogs and lizards
An investigation by the Scottish SPCA found that single mother-of-one Mia Connor had kept her animals in atrocious conditions and deprived them of food and water.
By the time the SSPCA attended Connor’s then property in Westwood, East Kilbride, a bearded dragon and gecko had already died a slow and miserable death. Their decomposed and dessicated bodies were found in an unlit and unheated vivarium. A surviving dragon named Cheech was found to be suffering severe dehydration and hypothermia.
Connor had failed to feed other pets properly, including cats Nemo and MJ, a collie named Luka and a Presa Canario cross called Hulk. Luka especially was very underweight
SSPCA inspector Jack Marshall described being met with “an overpowering smell of faeces and urine” as he entered Connor’s property which was strewn with rubbish and faeces.
Inspector Marshall continued: “Hulk was contained in a bedroom upstairs and when I entered, he was desperate to get out of the room. He was also in a very lean body condition. This room had an overwhelming stench of excrement and urine.
“The animals were transported immediately to the vet and upon examination all were found to be emaciated and dehydrated. Both dogs were given a body score of 2/5. Hulk had a very marked and generalised skin disease which appeared to have had very little treatment. Luka’s coat was in very poor condition and smelled strongly of urine.
“Both cats had evidence of flea infestation.
“Veterinary examination found this to be marked neglect over an extended period of time, for all of the animals, comprising deprivation of the most basic requirements for life, namely food and water. The timescale involved can’t be given precisely but would be expected to be over several weeks.
“Failing to provide for these animals clearly resulted in an unacceptable degree of unnecessary suffering and stress to all the animals involved.”
Connor pleaded guilty to causing unnecessary suffering to the animals but was let off with a paltry fine and a five-year ban on keeping animals.
Sentencing: £600 fine. Banned from keeping animals for just five years.
#TheList Nicholas John Wilburn (aka Nick Maddock), born 19/10/1990, of 8 Bank Lane, Little Hulton, Manchester M38 9UF – carried out DIY medical treatment on a wounded cat; set up a rescue for reptiles while still being subject of a three-year banning order
Wilburn self-diagnosed and self-treated Jasper using a substance made of alcohol which he applied to an open wound.
He later advised another person to use the same treatment when he passed over care of the cat.
But RSPCA officers say the treatment administered by Wilburn would actually have caused Jasper additional pain and suffering.
At the time Wilburn was involved with Bolton-based exotic pet rescue MagnaRep, later renamed Nick’s Ark – which was shut down in April 2017 following an RSPCA raid.
A trial followed during which five people, including Wilburn’s mother, Sue Maddock, were cleared.
Nicholas and Ryan Wilburn, who have since separated, have now been convicted.
Wilburn was found guilty of breaching his disqualification from owning animals; and for owning a bush viper without a licence.
Nick Wilburn’s ex-husband Ryan Anthony Wilburn, born 29/07/1991, of Epping Drive, Sale, Trafford M33 5LN was found guilty of aiding and abetting the breach of a disqualification; and for owning a bush viper without a licence.
Anna McDonald, prosecuting on behalf of the RSPCA, said charity workers are still looking after 70 seized animals. Some died following the raid.
Sara-Lise Howe, defence lawyer for Nicholas Wilburn, pushed for a lenient sentence for her client, highlighting that he is a carer for his mother and another disabled woman.
“He has anxiety and depression,” she added.
“It was his involvement with animals which made him not have to take medication. His own health is affected by a continued disqualification.”
The judge banned Nicholas from owning animals for a further five years.
Judge John Temperley told him: “I am concerned that you do post a risk in relation to animals.
“I find you made a serious and persistent breach which took place over a matter of months. You showed an almost complete disregard [for the order] the court made.
“There was a risk of suffering or harm to a large number of animals kept at Nick’s Ark.”
Ryan Wilburn was said by the judge to have had a ‘misguided sense of loyalty’ to his husband when he got involved.
Defence lawyer, Sheila Whitehead, said: “[Ryan] is not a danger to any animal.
“His part in the charity was only to clean and feed the animals and follow the instructions of Nick.”
Judge Temperley said: “Nick was the more dominant one in the relationship.
“I accept that Nick was the driving force and that yours was a smaller role.”
Ryan escaped a disqualification order.
Sentencing: Nick Wilburn – 12-week suspended prison sentence; 200 hours of unpaid work; £500 costs. Banned from keeping animals for a further five years. Ryan Wilburn – 200 hours of unpaid work; £500 costs; no ban.
#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.”