#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 junkie Kayleigh Weston, born 1987, of Lucerne Road, Biddulph, Stoke-on-Trent ST8 7FG – left family rabbit to starve to death in her hutch
A police officer went to the defendant’s address and found the rabbit, named Smudge, dead in a hutch filled with droppings. He alerted the RSPCA and an examination found the animal was emaciated.
Roger Price, prosecuting for the RPSCA, told North Staffordshire Justice Centre a police officer visited the defendant’s home on April 14, 2018, and when there was no answer he went to the back of the house.
Mr Price said: “He was alerted to look into a rabbit’s hutch. There was an empty water bottle and an empty food bottle. There were a lot of droppings piled up. There was a lifeless black and white rabbit which was clearly dead.
“The RSPCA became involved and the rabbit was examined. A post mortem examination was carried out. The vet found there was no body fat at all on the animal and a very poor muscle mass. It was emaciated. All the skeletal bones could be seen. It had had diarrhoea and was probably dehydrated.
“The rabbit was significantly underweight. It was clearly ill and in need of veterinary attention.
“The rabbit was totally dependent on the owner to regularly inspect daily and to provide adequate food for the pet. It was estimated to have been dead for between two and four days.”
The defendant, who had owned the rabbit for six years, said she fed Smudge nuggets and carrots between 5pm and 6pm and cleaned the hutch once a week, but on occasions it was longer.
The court heard she last cleaned it out one or two weeks before the officer found the rabbit.
She added she did not think the rabbit was thin.
Weston pleaded guilty to causing unnecessary suffering to an animal by failing to explore and address the animal’s poor bodily condition between April 2 and 14, 2018.
The court heard the defendant descended into a chaotic lifestyle due to her drug use.
All her other pets have since been re-homed and she is, apparently, no longer using drugs.
James Hulse, mitigating, said the defendant’s care for the animal was ‘sporadic and incompetent’.
Mr Hulse said: “She threw food into the cage but did not look to see if the rabbit was eating the food properly.
“Had she been to the vet and said, ‘My animal is not eating’. It is that that has not occurred. There was care but it was incompetent.”
Speaking after the case, RSPCA inspector Charlotte Melvin said: “This hutch was at least a few inches deep with faeces. The dead rabbit was found in a second compartment in the hutch. There was no food or water and as the rabbit was so emaciated it became clear that she had starved to death. There wasn’t even any rabbit food in the house.
“This was confirmed by a post mortem, which also showed that Smudge had zero body fat. She said that because Smudge was outside, she forgot about her. It is so sad that it was a case of out of sight, out of mind.
“It is so important to look after pets which are kept outside just as well as you would with pets who live inside your house, particularly as it gets colder and people are going outside in their gardens less.
“On top of that, rabbits have sensitive stomachs and going without food for even just 12 hours can cause them to suffer. The fact that Smudge went without food for so long is unbearable.
“It’s unbelievably cruel to simply leave an animal to slowly die in a cage without the care they need and deserve to survive.”
Sentencing: Fined £240 and ordered to pay costs and charges totalling £330. Disqualified from owning an animal for five years but can apply to have the disqualification terminated after three years.
#TheList Ethan Andrews, born c. 2000, formerly of Shefford Road, Shefford, Bedfordshire – set fire to ex girlfriend’s home resulting in the deaths of a rabbit, degu and dog
“Controlling and abusive” Andrews poured petrol over the rabbit hutch that he knew housed the victim’s much loved pet ‘Spice’. When he lit the accelerant, the resulting explosion blew in patio doors to the property.
There was nothing left of the rabbit hutch containing Spice and a second pet – a degu – later died as a result of smoke inhalation.
Andrews’ attack followed the break-up of his brief relationship with the victim.
She had complained that Andrews had been controlling and abusive. When she broke up with him he tried to pressurise her back into a relationship, making threats against her and to harm her pets.
In July 2018 he acted upon those threats.
Andrews admitted arson ‘reckless as to whether life was endangered’ and causing unnecessary suffering to a protected animal.
The case was investigated by Hertfordshire Constabulary’s Domestic Abuse Investigation and Safeguarding Unit.
Detective Constable Colin Workman said: “It is clear from the fire investigation that numerous lives were put at risk by Andrews’ actions, including the life of an unborn baby.
“Andrews planned this attack to get back at the victim. It was an act of pure callousness to target a rabbit in order to achieve this goal. His deliberate actions caused immense distress and harm to the victim and her family. I hope this sentence today allows them to start putting these terrible events behind them.”
Sentencing: 32 months’ imprisonment – 13 in prison and 19 out on licence – and a further three months to run concurrently for killing the rabbit. He was also given an indefinite restraining order.
#TheList Matthew Lowe, born 26/03/1979, previously of Newton, Sudbury, Suffolk and more recently 4 Gantry Close, Colchester CO1 2ZP – prosecuted for eight offences for neglect of poultry, pigs and rabbits on his smallholding.
Adam Pearson, prosecuting on behalf of Trading Standards at Suffolk County Council, said inspectors had attended Lowe’s smallholding at land off the Street in Assington, Suffolk, on December 19, 2017 after receiving a tip-off from a neighbour.
The pigs and poultry present on the site were found with no food and inadequate shelter. Piglets were in an unsuitable rearing environment, sows were underweight, and both pigs and poultry had parasites present. Lowe also failed to correctly register to keep pigs.
Mr Pearson described four rabbits which were in such poor health they had to be euthanised.
He said officers found a one large white rabbit lying on its side in an enclosure suffering from breathing problems.
A brown rabbit was discovered with swollen eyes and symptoms of myxomatosis while a second white rabbit was found with a badly injured back leg which had set at an angle, affecting the animal’s movement.
A fourth rabbit was discovered unresponsive with a sore ‘the size of a 50p piece’ on its back.
He added there were signs that rats had infested the rabbit enclosures and that officers also discovered a rubbish bin with four rabbit carcasses inside.
Following the prosecution, Suffolk Trading Standards are now working with Lowe to arrange the safe rehoming of the animals which he owns.
Sentencing: Lowe was given an eight week prison sentence suspended for 18 months, 25 day’s rehabilitation activity requirement; 100 hours of unpaid work, costs of £4,899 and a £115 victim surcharge. He was disqualified from keeping any farmed animal for five years (expires October 2023).
Jeremiah Smith, born July 1997, and his father Jason Smith, born ca 1972, both of 11 Burton Road, Branston, Burton On Trent, Staffordshire DE14 3DL for cruelty to rabbits, hens, owls and a kestrel
Gypsies Jeremiah and Jason Smith were both prosecuted under the Animal Welfare Act 2006.
The RSPCA found up to 70 animals at their address at 11 Burton Road including chickens, rabbits and birds of prey, the latter kept in cages for parrots and being fed unsuitable foods. Chickens were also not being treating for a mite infestation.
Smith senior pleaded guilty to charges of failing to prevent the causing of unnecessary suffering to animals between August 10 and 15, 2017.
This included failing to treat 17 chickens for a mite infestation and failing to meet the need for a suitable living environment for 30 chickens. He also pleaded guilty for failing to meet the need for a suitable living environment for three goldfinches.
His son Jeremiah Smith – father to 3yo triplets – pleaded guilty to four charges of causing unnecessary suffering to protected animals.
This included failing to meet the need for a suitable living environment for five rabbits, a kestrel, two barn owls and 12 pigeons as well as failing to meet their need of a suitable diet and constant water supply for the rabbits.
The RSPCA praised the court for their ruling and warned people not to keep animals they cannot look after.
Sentencing: Jason Smith – total fines and charges of £1,055. Jeremiah Smith – total fines and charges of £1,455.Both were disqualified from keeping animals for two years.
Jason Smith’s lawyer said they would be appealing against the decision.
#TheList Darryn Carpenter, aged 37, Normandy Way, Plymouth PL5 – beat pet rabbit Lucky to death and dumped his broken body in a dustbin
Father-of-two Carpenter, who has a conviction for domestic violence, was found guilty in his absence of causing Lucky unnecessary suffering on or about December 8 , 2017.
Police visiting Carpenter’s home on another matter found the animal wrapped in a plastic bag in the bin.
When questioned Carpenter claimed he had gone downstairs when he heard Lucky making noises, and after picking him up he dropped Lucky on the floor by accident. He said that when he put Lucky back into the hutch he was unharmed, but was found dead in the hutch the next day.
A post-mortem examination showed Lucky has suffered a severe injury to his thorax (the area between the neck and the abdomen).
He had a fracture dislocation of his spine and severe bleed to his chest cavity and into his lungs. It was concluded that he died as a “result of blunt force trauma”. Significant force had been applied to break the rabbit’s back. None of this was consistent with Carpenter’s claims that the rabbit had accidentally fallen to the floor.
Speaking about the case RSPCA chief inspector Richard Abbott said: “This was a very upsetting case where Mr Carpenter inflicted a great deal of violence and cruelty on a defenceless pet, who was kept at his home.”
“Pets deserve to be treated with care and respect and it’s terribly sad that poor Lucky’s life ended in this way.”
Sentence: 18-week prison sentence, suspended for 12 months. Total of £615 costs and charges. Banned from keeping any animal for 10 years (expires August 2028).