#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 Gavin Huw Towells, born 31/05/1980, of Cae Coed, Cwmbach, Aberdare CF44 0BF – threw two pet rabbits into the bushes of a layby and drove off.
Gavin Huw Towells was caught on CCTV intentionally throwing two rabbits into a grass verge – then driving off and leaving the cage behind.
Towells pleaded guilty to three offences, including causing unnecessary suffering to a tricolour female dutch rabbit and a brown female English lop eared rabbit by lifting them by their ears and throwing them, that he abandoned them, and also that he failed to provide them with a suitable living environment by confining them in an inadequate cage.
Towells was also prosecuted by Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council for fly-tipping – as he left the rabbit cage at the location. He was fined £500 for this offence.
The court heard that Towells was caught on privately-owned CCTV getting out of his car in a layby on Abercynon Road, Abercynon, and getting out a small rabbit cage from his boot which he placed on the ground next to heavy undergrowth.
He then opens up the hutch and picks up a pet rabbit by the ear and hurls her into the undergrowth. He then picks up a second pet rabbit by an ear and hurls her in the same manner. He then drives off leaving the rabbit cage behind.
A witness who saw what had happened managed to confine the rabbits and they were taken to the RSPCA Merthyr Tydfil Veterinary Clinic where they were health checked and given pain relief for the redness to their ears, which is thought to have been caused by Towells when he threw them.
In interview with the RSPCA Towells said he was taught by a pet store how to handle the rabbits in such a way so they didn’t kick him.
RSPCA inspector Gemma Cooper said: “The way in which Towells treated these poor rabbits is absolutely disgusting. There is just no need for it. The rabbits actually somersaulted many times before landing.
“There are plenty of charities out there who are willing to take in unwanted pets. Not only did he cause the rabbits unnecessary suffering by the way in which he threw them, he also would have caused them suffering by abandoning them.
“These are domestic rabbits who do not have the same instincts as a wild rabbits and would have probably become victim to a predator in a short amount of time. Luckily a very clued-up witness was able to save them from such a tragedy.”
The rabbits have now been successfully rehomed together.
Scientific officer for RSPCA’s Companion Animals department, Dr Jane Tyson, added: “Rabbits should never be picked up by their ears. How they were handled in this case would have been very stressful for them and highly likely to cause injury.
“Rabbits also have very fragile spines which can easily fracture from incorrect handling. When they are held, the handling should be gentle but firm and their body weight should be fully supported with one hand always supporting their back and hindquarters. If they feel insecure and struggle when being held they can sustain serious injuries such as fractures.”
Sentencing: eight-week prison sentence for the animal welfare offences; total of £515 costs and charges. Banned from keeping animals for 10 years.
#TheList Keith Lewis, born c. 1948, of York Road, Barlby, North Yorkshire YO8 – a serial abuser with three separate convictions for neglect involving dozens of animals including dogs, rabbits, ferrets and birds
In the latest prosecution case against him serial abuser Keith Lewis admitted causing unnecessary suffering to a collie dog named Meg
The RSPCA attended Lewis’s property on 13 December 2018, along with police after a call from a member of the public and found Meg tethered to a pipe with a chain inside a dark and muddy shed.
RSPCA inspector Claire Mitchell said: “The chain and tether were absolutely filthy, caked in mud and faeces.
“You could see that whatever Meg had around her neck was really tight and there was an obvious smell of infection coming from her.
“On closer inspection it became clear that it was in fact bailer twine and she needed urgent veterinary attention.”
Meg was seized by police and taken to a vets who found the area around her neck was matted with pus.
The twine – which had been wrapped around her neck multiple times – was embedded in her skin and muscle and infected, and when the vet cut it off she found a wound all the way around her neck.
Meg’s temperature was high – most likely as a result of the infection – and her lower body was matted with dirt and faeces.
She was operated on to clip and clean the wound and stitch it up and hospitalised for five days.
Veterinary evidence suggested that Meg had suffered for at least two weeks.
Inspector Mitchell said: “This is the worst tethering injury I’ve ever seen in a dog. It was absolutely terrible and she suffered a great deal.
“The RSPCA does not agree with tethering dogs for long periods as it can cause distress and restrict natural behaviours but this in itself is not illegal providing that their needs are being met.”
Meg was signed over shortly afterward coming into RSPCA care and has been rehomed.
In mitigation the court heard that Lewis had pleaded guilty, that Meg had been moved to the shed following complaints about her continuously howling where she had been previously tethered near to a public footpath, that he had animals all his life and a disqualification would have a real impact on him.
However, the court remarked that he had previous animal cruelty convictions which were an aggravating factor.
Lewis was first prosecuted in 2016 when York magistrates heard how he kept 60 animals living in filthy, squalid and cramped conditions in former agricultural buildings in Barlby.
On that occasion he admitted neglect offences in relations to about 30 of the animals, mostly poultry and rabbits, and was banned from keeping caged animals for 10 years and ordered to do a 12-week curfew.
Lewis was again taken to court and this time admitted breaching the 10-year animal ban, and failure to care for animals.
He received a second 10-year animal ban, preventing him having animals kept in cages.
But in December 2018, the RSPCA found Meg with the untreated wound round her neck.
At each of his three hearings, he claimed through his solicitors that the animals belonged to his son, claims that are not accepted by the RSPCA.
Sentencing (February 2019): 24-week prison sentence, suspended for two years; total of £415 costs and charges. Banned indefinitely from owning or having any part in the care of any animal of any species. A deprivation order was placed on any other animals in his care, including a number of dogs, cats, poultry, sheep, cows and pigs.
#TheList Jodie Wardil, born c. 1991, of Sherlock Lane, Wallasey, Wirral CH44 – abandoned pet dog in an empty property; left a rabbit to starve to death in her hutch
Single mother-of-four Jodie Wardil left rabbit Annie to starve to death before callously dumping her emaciated body in a wheelie bin.
It was only thanks to eagle-eyed neighbours that the case of appalling neglect came to light, along with that of a Staffordshire bull terrier named Buster.
Wardil pleaded guilty at Wirral magistrates’ court to two charges of causing unnecessary suffering to an animal, and a further charge of failing to ensure animal welfare.
Chris Murphy, prosecuting, said the RSPCA were first alerted by a worried neighbour who reported a dog had been left alone in a house.
The neighbour said he had been feeding the dog by pushing food through the letterbox for several days.
When the RSPCA inspector arrived and looked through the letterbox, he could see the dog had a severe skin infection.
The inspector later received a call from Wardil, during which she agreed to sign Buster over to the RSPCA.
When the inspector returned to collect Buster, a neighbour approached him to tell him the defendant had dumped a dead rabbit into a wheelie bin.
Initially Wardil claimed Annie the rabbit had been collected by her ex-partner.
The inspector recovered the emaciated rabbit from a black bin bag in the wheelie bin.
Wardil said both animals had been neglected because she had not been living at the property and her “mind was elsewhere”.
On examination, Buster was found to have inflamed skin and to be “alive with fleas.” Following treatment, he made a full recovery and has since been re-homed.
The rabbit was found to be totally emaciated as a result of chronic starvation, lasting several weeks, with every part of the skeleton visible, and an untreated eye condition which had attracted maggots.
Chairman of the bench, Peter Sanders, told Wardil: “Animals rely for their well-being on human beings. The only thing that takes away from a custodial sentence is your mental state.”
Speaking after the case, RSPCA Inspector Anthony Joynes said: “This was a serious case of prolonged neglect which had devastating effects for poor Annie the rabbit.
“Annie, who was already suffering with an untreated eye condition, was then left to starve to death before being callously dumped in the bin.
“Rabbit neglect is so incredibly sad as it often goes undetected until it’s too late.
“They’re far too easy to acquire and to neglect often without anyone ever knowing.
“Thankfully I’m able to report that Buster, who is a typical lovely and boisterous Staffie has made a full recovery and has been rehomed.
“I’m grateful to the members of the public who were clearly on the ball and ensured that the situation was reported to us.”
Sentencing: 18-month community order. Fined £585. Banned from keeping animals for life with the right of appeal after five years.
#TheList Andrew John Rooney, born c. 1973, of 26 Mayfield Avenue, Lancaster LA1 2NY – found with two dogs, a cat, a budgie, a hamster and a guinea pig in breach of a 1997 ban on keeping animals.
Serial animal abuser Andrew John Rooney admitted breaching the lifelong disqualification between January 17, 2016, and July 17, 2018, by keeping two dogs, known as Shadow and Max, a cat known as Magic, alongside a bird, hamster and guinea pig.
Rooney pleaded guilty to causing unnecessary suffering to one of the dogs, a Labrador, by failing to seek adequate veterinary treatment for her skin condition between February and April 27, 2018.
Sentencing: 14 -week jail term, suspended for two years; rehabilitation activity requirement; 150 hours of unpaid work. Total of £615 costs and charges.
#TheList Joe Whittam, born 07/06/1990, of Langdale Road, Carnforth, Lancashire LA5 9AU – set his dogs on a pet cat and fox; failed to provide vet treatment for his injured dogs
Joseph Whittam, who also uses the surname Riding, pleaded guilty to four offences under the Animal Welfare Act in relation to encouraging his two dogs to attack a cat and a fox, as well as failing to provide veterinary attention for the dogs themselves.
The RSPCA joined Lancashire Constabulary to execute a warrant at Whittam’s address in August 2017 after intelligence that suggested he was involved in wildlife crimes with his two dogs.
The dogs – a terrier called Rex and a lurcher called Zip – were removed by police and placed into the RSPCA’s care. A mobile phone was also seized and investigators discovered a number of shocking videos saved on the phone.
RSPCA special investigation officer Jason Bowles said: “In one video, the two dogs are going crazy, barking and snapping at the mesh of a trap with a black and white domestic cat inside.
“In a second video, the cat is released along with the dogs and the dogs grab the cat and literally start to rip it apart while the cat screams and cries in pain. It is horrific and absolutely blood-curdling. Many of our staff here at the RSPCA haven’t been able to stomach watching it.
“One of the magistrates had to leave court after watching the sickening footage.
“The cat was killed although we never found the body and never traced the poor cat’s owners.”
He added: “In another video, the dogs can be seen attacking and biting a fox. In all the footage Whittam can clearly be heard encouraging the dogs and egging them on.”
Rex and Zip both had old injuries – thought to be caused by their attacks – which had not been treated. They received veterinary care and remain in the RSPCA’s care. They will be rehomed once the case has concluded.
Further analysis of Whittam’s phone uncovered images of a dog being encouraged to attack a gerbil and still images of the fox attack which show the animal being baited by the dog.
Whittam claimed the fox had been shot and injured before his dogs got hold of it.
Lancashire Constabulary’s Sgt James Pinder said: “This investigation began as a result of community information in relation to animal welfare and poaching offences.
“I hope the investigation clearly demonstrates that we will work with our partner agencies and will deal with offenders in a robust manner.
“The sentence, which marks the end of a 16-month investigation, is welcomed by Lancashire Constabulary and we hope it will send a clear message to those who think it is acceptable to partake in these criminal activities.”
Sentencing Whittam at Preston Magistrates’ Court, the chairman of the bench said the offences were sustained, deliberate and gratuitous
Sentencing: Jailed for 22 weeks; ordered to pay a total of £490. Disqualified from keeping animals for life.
#TheList Richard Crozier of Annsville, Newry BT34 1AB – for a catalogue of neglect towards five adult dogs, four dependant pups and four ferrets in his care.
A case was brought against Crozier by Newry, Mourne and Down District Council following a complaint about the condition of animals living at his home.
When council animal welfare officers visited Crozier’s home on March 4, 2016 they found the conditions in which the animals were being kept to be “appalling”.
Sadly, a lurcher-type dog had already died. The dog, who was wearing a muzzle, was chained to a kennel. He had several open wounds on his legs and was skeletal. A post mortem found that the dog was severely emaciated.
The animals were all deemed to be suffering and were taken into the possession of the council.
In court, Crozier pleaded guilty to all four charges which were brought by the council under the provisions of the Welfare of Animals Act (Northern Ireland) 2011.
Sentencing: Total fines of £1000. Disqualified from keeping animals for just five years (expires November 2023).
#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.
UPDATED FOR SENTENCING
#TheList Natalie Dendri, aged 39, of Colston Street, Benwell, Newcastle upon Tyne NE4 – threw a pet ferret named Posh Spice into the air and repeatedly punched her
Dendri was found guilty of causing unnecessary suffering to the animal and being drunk and disorderly after the incident in May 2018.
She was seen throwing the animal into the air and repeatedly punching her. The ferret tried to escape but Dendri caught her and attacked her again.
The details were revealed at a trial at Newcastle Magistrates’ Court after Dendri was charged with two offences – causing unnecessary suffering to a protected animal and being drunk and disorderly.
She denied both charges but failed to attend court and the trial went ahead in her absence.
Prosecutor Stephen Davies said the offences took place just before 2pm on May 31.
It was said a driver who was travelling along Armstrong Road saw a woman at the side of road with a furry object. She then threw it in the air and started punching it “really severely”.
The animal squirmed away but Dendri grabbed her and punched her again with a clenched fist, the court heard.
The police were called and PC Lewis Calboutin attended the scene.
The officer told the court : “I was asked to attend in relation to an intoxicated female who may have a pet that she was treating badly.
“I saw a female sitting on the grass verge on the side of Armstrong Road.
“She immediately appeared to me to be intoxicated. She had a ferret called Posh Spice. It was lying in the sun and it appeared dehydrated. It was hot, it was panting and seemed lethargic.”
Dendri was asked to get into a police vehicle so she could be taken home to attend to the animal’s welfare.
In the vehicle, she was shouting and swearing and, as they reached her address, she vomited in the van.
“We asked her to step out of the vehicle,” said PC Calboutin. “She started shouting and swearing at me and my colleague.
“She then dropped her ferret from a standard height to the floor.”
Dendri was arrested and the ferret was taken to a vet. The animal later recovered and was placed in a shelter.
On being interviewed, the defendant denied being drunk or that she ill treated the ferret. She pleaded not guilty to the offences at an earlier hearing.
However magistrates found her guilty of both charges on the day of the trial.
It was also revealed that Dendri had previously admitted to an offence of assaulting an officer at a police station after she was arrested on May 31, 2018.
North Tyneside Magistrates’ Court heard that Dendri had kept ferrets for a number of years but after Posh Spice was removed she no longer had any pets.
Janice Hall, defending, said that Dendry was previously sectioned as a result of her ill mental health and now has carers.
Ms Hall said: “They ensure that she is taking her medication. They also help with her money and provide her with general assistance.
“She struggles looking after herself, she’s not in a position to give appropriate care for an animal.”
District Judge Kate Meek said: “You caused unnecessary suffering to a ferret whether you meant to or not. More to the point you carried on doing so.
“I accept there are a range of issues and a custodial sentence would simply delay that work being undertaken.”
She added: “Ms Dendri this is really your last chance. Let’s hope it works.”
Sentencing (02/11/18) 12-month community order to work with probation on her drug and alcohol issues; fined £50 and ordered to pay £250 costs. Unlimited ban on keeping animals which lasts for at least two years, after which Dendri would need to apply to a court to have the ban lifted.