Mother-of-three Angela McMullan pleaded guilty to causing unnecessary suffering to her pet dog. The charge was brought against McMullan by Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council under the Welfare of Animals Act (NI) 2011.
Council Animal Welfare Officers attended the property on April 9, 2019 following reports of concerns for a dog. On initial examination of the unnamed dog they contacted the council vet to attend.
A vet who examined the dog advised he was a very thin Staffordshire Bull Terrier cross with his ribs, spine and pelvic bones clearly visible. The vet gave the dog a body score of 1/5 which was deemed excessively thin.
The dog also had fur loss along his tail, head and muzzle. The vet stated the dog was suffering and advised removal.
The dog was voluntarily signed over to the council and successfully re-homed
Sentencing: two-year conditional discharge. Ordered to pay costs of £437.75. Disqualified from keeping or caring for any animals for 10 years.
#TheList cat hoarder Pamela J Coombes, born c. 1967, of 114 Gatcombe Road, Bristol BS13 9RG – neglected dozens of cats in her care and kept them in foul conditions
In August 2018 police raided Pamela Coombes’ house after her neighbours called the RSPCA and she repeatedly refused to let them in to look around.
Inside, police officers and RSPCA inspectors found what they described as unhygienic and unsuitable for the number of cats.
Many of the cats were found to be suffering from cat flu, dental disease and flea infestations.
An RSPCA spokeswoman said: “Cats were immediately removed from the premises because of the conditions they were being kept, with some found to have discharge from their eyes and nose, some in poor body condition, and several sneezing.
“Vets who assessed the cats found many to be suffering from cat flu, dental disease and flea infestations.
“Conditions in Coombes’ home were described as being unhygienic and unsuitable for animals, with a lack of provision for the number of cats confined in the space,” she added.
District Judge Anthony Callaway said there was no evidence that Coombes had been “deliberately cruel” to the cats and her actions were borne out of “a desire to help too many animals to the extent that the care of others may be jeopardized by further additions and cruelty, not inflicted deliberately, but on the contrary, cruelty borne of kindness.”
Sentencing: Coombes was found guilty of five separate animal welfare offences and given a two-year conditional discharge. She was banned from keeping cats for just three years. All of her cats were handed over into the care of the RSPCA.
#TheList Paul Oliver, born c. 1978, and Hannah Rose, born c. 1988, both of Sutton Crosses, Long Sutton, Spalding PE12, Paul Reece, born c. 1970, of Grove View, Usk Road, Chepstow NP16 6SA and Julie Elmore, born c. 1963, of 6 Brynarw Estate, Abergavenny NP7 7ND – convicted of animal cruelty after fox cubs were fed to hounds
Footage obtained by a group called the Hunt Investigation Team (HIT) was instrumental in the successful prosecution of Paul Oliver, master of hounds with the now disbanded South Herefordshire Hunt.
Oliver was convicted of four counts of animal cruelty for allowing his hounds to kill four fox cubs and was handed a 16-week suspended jail sentence for causing their “painful, terrifying” deaths.
District Judge Joanna Dickens, sitting at Birmingham Magistrates’ Court, also imposed a 12-week suspended sentence on Oliver’s partner, Hannah Rose, the hunt’s kennel maid.
The pair were ordered to pay £300 in costs and a £115 victim surcharge after being convicted of causing unnecessary suffering.
HIT, a relatively new group whose members include ex-services personnel, received training in covert investigative methods.
They fixed a device to Oliver’s Land Rover following a tip-off and tracked him to a site where they suspected he was catching fox cubs in May 2016.
They also set up cameras at the hunt’s kennels and obtained footage they said proved Oliver was catching cubs and taking them back to his hounds to “blood” them.
The court heard that one camera recorded Oliver dumping the bodies of two cubs in a wheelie bin.
The activists are said to have taken legal advice from lawyers and animal welfare organisations who told them they could not recover the cubs as this would amount to theft.
They said they did not pass the case to the police because they did not believe officers would have the resources to follow it up.
HIT members, who are involved in several ongoing investigations, are so worried about reprisals that one was allowed to give evidence during the seven-day trial from behind a screen.
Julie Elmore and Paul Reece admitted two counts of causing unnecessary suffering to cubs which were distressed by being transported to the kennels.
Elmore and Reece were given conditional discharges and ordered to pay costs of £50 after the judge said both had been “motivated by consideration” for two fox cubs.
A fifth defendant, Nathan Parry, born c. 1978, also of Brynarw estate, was cleared of all charges.
Parry took foxes to kennels but was found not guilty after the judge accepted he believed they would be relocated in the wild.
Martin Sims, director of investigations at the League Against Cruel Sports and former head of the police’s National Wildlife Crime Unit, said: “We believe the incidents show that hunts are clearly still hunting as the poor fox cubs were thrown into the kennels to give the hounds a taste for blood.
“The barbarity of these incidents is sickening and will horrify the vast majority of the British public who are overwhelmingly opposed to fox hunting.”
Deborah Marshall, HIT spokeswoman, said: “This case has taken far too long to come to court and we have faced false allegations against investigators and obstruction throughout. We are glad that justice has finally taken its course.
“The capture of fox cubs to be used to train hounds is nothing new and is widespread across Britain, as is the mass destruction of healthy hounds to make way for younger ones. We will continue to expose cruelty and wildlife crime.”
#TheList Tony Israel Price, born c. 1962, of 6 Shirenewton Caravan Site, Wentloog Road, Cardiff CF3 2EE – neglected three ponies
Gypsy traveller Tony Israel Price was found guilty of three horse cruelty offences after failing to take advice from the RSPCA about their care.
In July 2018 RSPCA inspectors Christine McNeil and Simon Evans attended a field off Redway Road, Bonvilston and found 13 horses with “very poor grazing” with ragwort present, and one mare in particular in “very poor condition”.
“During this visit a vet examination was carried out and advice was passed onto the owner as well as a warning notice issued for the poor body condition of the mare,” said inspector McNeil.
“We then re-visited in August and I attended with chief inspector Elaine Spence and the mare’s condition had deteriorated. A vet on site was of the opinion that she was suffering and the two other mares did not have their needs met and would be likely to suffer if their circumstances did not change.
“Sadly our advice had not been taken on board and we had to take action. Further advice was also issued for the remaining horses at the location.”
The three piebald mares were signed over to the charity and will be made available for rehoming.
Sentencing: 18-month conditional discharge; £1,000 costs and a victim surcharge.
#TheList gamekeeper Austin Hawke, born 1967, of The Bungalow, Ling Park, Ilkley LS29 0EJ – killed a badger in a trap
The badger had been lured to a ‘stink pit’ at High Denton Farm, near Ilkley, where dead and decaying animals are legitimately placed in a pile to lure vermin so they can be destroyed.
Austin Hawke – a head keeper of the Denton Park Estate, had denied failing to inspect a snare every day it remained in position. The offence was contrary to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
Hawke had set eight wire snares at four entrances to a 25 metre by 25 metre fenced off area of moorland before Easter 2018.
The aim was to lure foxes, the target species which Hawke had a licence from Defra to destroy, to the pit.
The square pit had four entrance holes cut into the fencing mesh with the snares placed nearby.
The pit was around 100 metres away from a footpath.
However, Hawke claimed the snares had been ‘deactivated’ on Good Friday (March 30, 2018) because he was conscious there could be an increase in visitors and walkers to the moorland over the Easter break.
He said, generally, deactivating snares involved loosening the wire so the loop part, which the animals are snared by, is made smaller and wrapped around a ‘tealer’, a semi-rigid wire which holds the loop in the air at the correct height, and laying it down in undergrowth nearby.
On this occasion he admitted the snares had been left in situ but said the loops had been loosened and made so small as to prevent hares or badgers getting tangled in them.
He said the idea was to re-set them after a few weeks.
Prosecuting Rob Yates said the badger had been found by walker and bird watcher Andrew Jowett on May 28 last year.
The police were called to the site. Sergeant Stuart Grainger, of North Yorkshire Police, said he attended the site, one kilometre north of High Denton Farm, on May 29. The dead badger was in one of the snares which was attached to a wooden stake in the ground and “looked as if it had been dead for several days”. He said it was in such an advanced state of decay that its innards fell away when it was raised from the ground. He said the snare had cut into the badger’s flesh.
Hawke acknowledged legislation required gamekeepers to check snares at least once every 24 hours but he argued that as he had deactivated them there was no reason to check them.
He said he had been a gamekeeper for 35 years.
He said when in use, the traps and snares are checked daily and any non-target species trapped in them, such as hares and badgers, are released.
“We don’t want to cause unnecessary suffering,” Hawke said, stating he regarded the capture of a non-target species as a ‘tragedy’.
He said he had made an inspection of the area prior to setting the snares and he had seen no evidence of badgers being present, which can be seen through their droppings or hair on fences.
Defending, Amber Walker said her client had an exemplary record as a game keeper and was skilled in his job and honest.
“The snares were not left in such a state they posed a threat to non-target species. Mr Hawke has said if he had not been sure of this he would have gone back to check,” she said.
She also claimed there was a possibility that animal rights activists could have been responsible in order to have the blame laid at the feet of the game keeper.
“Removing a head keeper (through conviction) would be quite a scalp (by some activists) even if it meant the death of a badger,” she said.
Mr Yates claimed it was unlikely that animal rights people who campaigned against animal cruelty and disapproved of capturing animals would set snares.
Instead, he said Hawke had left the snares in position and was under a legal obligation to check them every 24 hours.
Magistrates found Hawke guilty of the charge, but stated it was an ‘isolated act of negligence, rather than intent’.
Sergeant Kev Kelly, of North Yorkshire Police’s Rural Task Force, said: “This case was reported following a member of the public who was aware of our proactive work under Operation Owl.
“From the evidence collected, it was apparent that the badger had suffered before it had eventually died after being caught in the snare. Therefore this case was fully investigated to ensure other animals didn’t undergo the same fate.
“If the defendant had been using breakaway snares it is less likely that he would have killed the badger.
“I am disappointed as we have been doing some really good partnership working with local Nidderdale keepers who want to show the public good practice and accountability.
“Hawke’s conviction will no doubt have an impact on how his profession is viewed. I think he has done his wider colleagues a disservice.”
Geoff Edmond, RSPCA National Wildlife Coordinator, said: “The RSPCA continues to work closely with the North Yorkshire Police’s Rural Task Force and this result highlights the strength of partnership working under Operation Owl.
“This badger will have suffered a horrific and prolonged death having been snared in this way.
“The RSPCA is against the use of snares because they are indiscriminate in what they catch and they cause tremendous suffering. But while they remain legal we hope we can work together with the Police and National Gamekeepers’ Organisation to raise awareness of the good practice guide so as to improve accountability.”
Sentencing: 12-month conditional discharge. Costs and charges totalling £645.
#TheList Gary Sean Chadwick, born 15/01/1999, of Firbeck, Skelmersdale WN8 6PN – battered a 20-week-old kitten and left her to suffer an agonising death
Gary Chadwick pleaded guilty to causing unnecessary suffering to a protected animal at Liverpool Magistrates’ Court.
He killed the grey and white kitten, named Smokey, after he hit her so hard that he caused multiple fractures, kidney damage and significant bruising.
The kitten likely suffered for “many hours” according to the vet who carried out the post-mortem.
A carer for Chadwick, who has autism and had also previously been on medication for schizophrenia , discovered the kitten after she saw her struggling to use her front legs and heard her wailing in pain before she died.
She said Chadwick was acting “shifty”, claiming the cat always made those noises when it used the litter tray.
The carer left the house and called the RSPCA to report Chadwick for animal cruelty.
When interviewed, Chadwick claimed he had only ever slapped Smokey once during her short life but said he never threw or kicked her.
David Lloyd, defending, told Liverpool Magistrates’ Court: “I don’t think he intended to deliberately hurt the kitten.”
Adding: “He has asked me to inform the court, to say he was fond of the kitten.”
Inspector Joanne McDonald said: “We will never know the exact details of how the kitten came to have these injuries but from what the expert witnesses told the court it must have been terrible.
“Smokey was only 20 weeks old and the suffering she must have endured after the attack must have been terrible.”
Sentencing: two-year conditional discharge. Banned from keeping animals for 10 years.
#TheList Briony Coster, born c. 1976, of no fixed above but with links to Liskeard, Cornwall, and Paignton in Devon – abandoned her pet parrots in an empty property
Coster admitted leaving an African grey parrot, who was found in a dirty cage with stale water, and a blue and gold macaw, who was discovered in a cluttered room on a stand with some food and stale water, alone in a property in Liskeard for six days in July 2018.
Both birds – which were underweight when they were rescued – were removed with the authority of the landlord, who had repossessed the property, and taken to a vets for examination.
RSPCA deputy chief inspector Suzy Hannaby, who investigated for the animal welfare charity, said: “There is never an excuse for simply walking away and leaving an animal to potentially face a long slow death from starvation.
“There is help available for those who, for whatever reason, find themselves unable to provide for their animals and we encourage people to seek out this help, rather than abandoning an animal.”
The two birds, which have since recovered in foster care, will be found new homes.
Sentencing: 12-month conditional discharge. Fines and charges of £470. Banned from keeping all avian species for two years.
#TheList David Woods, aged 40, of Burns Road, Ipswich and Christina Wright, aged 36, of 14 Bonnington Road, Ipswich – allowed Staffies Alena and Scooby to become emaciated and chronically undernourished
Woods admitted causing unnecessary suffering by failing to address the condition of his dogs between December 14 2017 and January 14 2018.
Burns, who has a history of violence, allegedly threw one of the dogs against a wall when police visited his previous address in Bonnington Road on January 14 2018 in connection with an assault.
Officers called the RSPCA with concerns for three dogs inside the property shared by Woods and his then partner, Christina Wright.
Wright admitted causing the suffering of a third Staffordshire bull terrier, which she owned, but for which the pair shared responsibility.
Prosecutor Hugh Rowland told the court that Scooby was found locked in a dark, dirty, cramped and cold conservatory.
“There was an evident lack of suitable diet,” added Mr Rowland, who explained the other dog was also severely underweight, with poor teeth, dry and scaly ears, overgrown nails, a coat containing flea dirt, a lump on the chest, three mammary masses and a hernia on the left side.
“In the vet’s opinion, they were subject to malnutrition and emaciation, had poor skin and coat, and were chronically undernourished,” he said.
Woods, who communicates through sign language, claimed the dogs were fed twice daily, but that both had suffered recent bouts of vomiting and diarrhoea.
He said the lump on one of the dogs “grew quickly” and that the hernia was the result of breeding.
Mark Holt, mitigating, said Woods denied throwing a dog against a wall and claimed to have sought veterinary help.
“His lack of speech and hearing made it difficult,” said Mr Holt.
“Lack of finance meant he could not secure private veterinary care, or through charity, he says.
“He accepts he took his eye off the ball but maintains the dogs were ill in preceding days and weeks. There is no suggestion of deliberate harm.”
Sentencing: Woods: total of £845 fine and costs; ban on keeping animals (duration unspecified in article).
Wright: conditional discharge; £100 contribution towards costs; disqualified from keeping dogs (duration unspecified in article)
#TheList Frankie Williams, aged 26, of Melrose Drive, St Helen Auckland was found guilty of causing unnecessary suffering to a lurcher named Rocky after an RSPCA investigation
Williams was convicted of failing to provide Rocky – a male white and tan lurcher – with adequate nutrition for his needs contrary to the Animal Welfare Act 2006.
Williams had placed an online advertisement offering Rocky free to a good home. Concerned by the picture of an underweight dog, a member of the public collected Rocky and contacted the RSPCA, before taking him to Happier Days for Strays in Sunderland.
RSPCA inspector Stephanie Baines said: “Rocky was in a shocking state. He was extremely thin with his bones visible through his skin. He had very little muscle and had pressure sores on all four legs and his shoulder blades. Rocky was weak, lethargic, shook when standing up and was unsteady on his feet when walking.”
Rocky was found to weigh just 14.15kg; a dog of his type is expected to weigh between 25kg and 28kg.
Blood test results revealed it was unlikely he was underweight due to any underlying medical conditions.
Rocky has since found a new home.
Sentencing: 12-month conditional discharge, £700 costs and a £20 victim surcharge. NO BAN.