#TheList Leighton Marc Donnelly, born c. 1984, of Maes Glas, Pontyates, Gwendraeth Valley SA15 – abandoned snakes to starve to death
Leighton Donnelly pleaded guilty to causing unnecessary suffering to a protected animal – contrary to the Animal Welfare Act 2006 – when he appeared before magistrates.
The court heard that he fled a property in Baptist Well Street, Waun Wen, Swansea after falling behind on his rent. When the landlord entered the house after weeks of failing to make contact, he found a starving boa constrictor loose in a bedroom.
A dead snake was found in a vivarium in the property.
Jon Tarrant, prosecuting on behalf of the RSPCA, told the court the grim discovery was made on April 14, 2019.
Mr Tarrant said the boa constrictor was examined by a vet who said the animal was in a very emaciated state, and had lost a significant amount of body weight.
The vet concluded the snake “would have needed a prolonged period of starvation” to end up in such a poor physical state.
In his interview Donnelly admitted that last time he had seen the snakes was in “February or March”.
The defendant, who represented himself in court, apologised for actions.
Magistrates told him courts took animal offences seriously and he had shown a “flagrant disregard for the welfare” of the snakes.
Sentencing: 12-month community order with a rehabilitation course and 60 hours of unpaid work; ordered to pay £400 towards costs. Banned from keeping any animal for two years.
#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 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 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 Lee William James, born 30/03/1986, of 49 Rayners Close, Stalybridge SK15 1TJ – abandoned snakes without food or water; 13 found dead
Lee James, a director of his family’s company Imperial Cutting Formes Ltd, was found guilty of letting a number of snakes die by leaving them for weeks without food and water.
The RSPCA was first alerted in January 2017 by the landlord of the unit on Gorsey Mount Street, near Stockport town centre, which James was renting to keep the animals.
They were housed in vivariums, and when inspectors eventually gained access a fortnight later they were greeted by a ‘strong and unpleasant stench’ coming from inside.
Horrified inspectors found 13 dead snakes in various stages of decomposition, some of which were so badly decomposed they were unrecognisable.
Three dead snakes were also found in a bin bag crawling with maggots.
Six live snakes were found, including a venomous viper snake, but they had no food or water and were all in ‘poor body condition,’ Anna McDonald prosecuting on behalf of the RSPCA told magistrates.
The viper was seized by Stockport Council licensing officers. The other five, including two royal pythons, an Indian python and a reticulated python – the world’s longest snake – were seized by police and taken to be examined.
Nearly all were found to be suffering from malnutrition and dehydration, and one, a young royal python, died in the vets’ care.
James, who said he was a ‘self-taught’ keeper of snakes, told officers he was in the process of re-homing them.
But he said he was under a lot of stress as his father had been diagnosed with cancer and he had been running his business whilst he was unwell.
He admitted he’d last attended to the snakes before Christmas, probably in mid-December.
James pleaded guilty to one charge of causing unnecessary suffering to five snakes and three charges of failing to meet the needs of 10 snakes.
Sentencing: 140 hours of unpaid work; ordered to pay £1,484.92. Banned from keeping any reptiles for a period of five years.