#TheList pet sitter Claire Langford (aka Claire Curtis), born c. 1972, of The Orchard, Plemstall Lane, Mickle Trafford, Chester CH2 4EN – failed to take a badly injured Shih Tzu to the vet after he had been attacked by another dog
Claire Langford was paid to look after four-year-old Shih-Tzu Blu while his owners went on holiday – despite not having a licence for boarding facilities.
Then when Blu was seriously injured after being attacked by a boxer dog, Langford failed to contact a vet until after he had died.
Langford, who previously owned a kennels business and claimed to have been a judge at Crufts, pleaded guilty to keeping an animal boarding establishment without a licence. She was also found guilty of causing unnecessary suffering to a protected animal following a trial.
The court heard that Blu’s owner dropped off the dog the day before she was heading on her holiday as the family member she usually left the pet with was unwell.
It was later that same day that Blu died.
Langford had given four varying accounts of events surrounding the incident, which happened when she was out with her own dogs and Blu at Delamere Forest.
A vet pathologist said in court that Blu had numerous injuries and bit marks which included a severe 13cm lesion around the neck.
The pathologist concluded Blu would have died about an hour after the attack but it was clear veterinary assistance should have been sought as the injuries could clearly be seen.
In a victim impact statement, Blu’s devastated owner said: “This was the first time I had ever left Blu and I was very nervous.
“Blu was my baby boy; after 13 years of trying to start a family we agreed to put that heartache behind us. Blu gave us the most amazing four years but it should have been so much more. He brought me so much joy into my life. Blu was my world and meant everything to me.
“I feel lost without him; it kills me every day knowing I left him with those people.”
A probation report said Langford, who had no previous convictions, had received a visit from the RSPCA who said they had no issues.
She had a diploma in animal care and had looked after dogs her whole life, and had volunteered with the RSPCA.
She “thought the world of Blu” and the attack “broke her heart”.
Langford had a number of health issues, both physical and mental, including complications caused by having type two diabetes since the age of six.
Defending, Peter Barnett said Langford had run a kennels business until about 10 years ago due to her health, but would look after her own six dogs and friends’ dogs.
She was on universal credit and personal independent payments, while being cared for by her 18-year-old daughter.
Sentencing: ordered to pay £1,000 compensation to Blu’s owners and £1,500 in costs to the council. Six-month curfew. Banned from applying for an animal boarding premises licence for 10 years.
Update 30/05/19: Following sentencing on April 30, 2019, Langford submitted an appeal against both her conviction and sentence – but withdrew her appeal against conviction two days before the hearing.
Appealing against her sentence, Langford claimed that the event was a one-off and that she was not operating a commercial enterprise, but this was rejected by the appeal judge.
During the appeal the judge said: “It must have been transparent this dog was poorly, you had received training. This dog suffered on any view serious and fatal injuries, and would have been displaying signs of ill health and distress.”
And referring to a recording of a phone conversation with a veterinary receptionist heard in court, he added: “It’s not simply a case of you not noticing the injury. This is a bad case. We heard the calm tone with which you spoke to the receptionist. She was far more upset than you were, for a dog you’d been paid to look after.”
However, taking into account Langford’s financial situation, the judge reduced the total amount payable by deleting the costs ordered.
The curfew was also reduced to one month and the curfew times altered.