Tag Archives: County Durham

Hartlepool, County Durham: Michaela Durkin

#TheList Michaela Alison Durkin, born c. 1995, of Jesmond Gardens, Hartlepool TS24 – allowed her dog to suffer with a broken leg for a month, eventually forcing vets to amputate it.

Whippet Lola was left to suffer with a broken leg for four weeks by her callous owner Michaela Durkin
Whippet Lola was left to suffer with a broken leg for four weeks by her callous owner Michaela Durkin

Durkin pleaded guilty one count of causing unnecessary suffering to a protected animal between March and April 2019.

The mother-of-two lied to RSPCA inspectors claiming her whippet, Lola, had fallen down the stairs and injured her right hind leg, but appeared to “brighten up” after a couple of days.

A member of the public contacted the animal welfare charity after noticing the family pet had an “obvious and noticeable injury”. Lola was unable to put any weight on the leg and it appeared visibly swollen.

The court heardhow Durkin denied witnessing Lola falling down the stairs, but had heard a yelp. However, she claimed she could not remember the date that the dog first began holding up one leg.

Dave Dedman, prosecuting on behalf of the RSPCA, said: “Lola was taken to see a vet who stated she was incapable of putting any weight on the leg and it was clear there was a fracture to the femur, muscle contractures and shortening of the limb.

“She said that had occurred over a prolonged period of time. She was hospitalised on April 5, 2019, but very sadly, because of the break and because the muscle had contracted, Lola had her right hind leg amputated on April 8.”

Whippet Lola was left to suffer with a broken leg for four weeks by her callous owner Michaela Durkin

Durkin, was interviewed four days later and said she thought Lola had not been herself for a couple of days, but had perked back up and she had no reason to think Lola’s leg was broken.

Vets caring for the whippet confirmed it was impossible for the dog to have sustained the injury by falling down the stairs and said the fracture had happened at least four weeks prior to the RSPCA investigation.

Whippet Lola was left to suffer with a broken leg for four weeks by her callous owner Michaela Durkin

They instead suggested Lola’s leg had been subjected to “substantial lateral force”. The court heard allegations that the father of Durkin’s children had kicked the dog, however no charges were brought against him.

Mr Dedman concluded there had been “prolonged neglect”, adding: “It’s a very sad and there’s a high level of suffering caused to the dog, to the point where her leg had to be amputated.”

A probation report stated Durkin had significant personal and financial problems and could not afford veterinary bills.

Durkin’s solicitor, Gavin Musgrave, conceded the family pet had sustained a “horrific injury” and told the court that Lola had been signed over into the care of the RSPCA.

Mr Musgrave said: “She was a responsible dog owner and she’s had animals in the past. She’s very remorseful for the incident and she’s fearful of the consequences.”

Sentencing: 12-month community order; total of £485 fine and charges. Disqualified from owning or being in control of any animal for ten years.

Northern Echo
Teesside Live

Ferryhill, County Durham: Nicole Jones

#TheList Nicole Lauren Jones, born 19/05/2000, of Kitchener Terrace, Ferryhill DL17 8AX – left dogs to starve to death in her filthy home

Dog killer Nicole Lauren Jones from Ferryhill, Co Durham

Mother-of-one Jones admitted three offences under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 after allowing two of her three dogs to starve to death.

Dog killer Nicole Lauren Jones from Ferryhill, Co Durham

The 19-year-old placed the animals in shocking conditions and left them to forage among the junk scattered throughout the house.

The pets knocked over a pot of paint and left a heart-breaking trail of paw prints all over the surfaces and inside the fridges as they desperately searched for food.

Dog killer Nicole Lauren Jones from Ferryhill, Co Durham
Gypsy the lurcher after she was rescued

One dog was found by RSPCA inspectors lying dead next to a chewed up Pot Noodle carton. Another was rescued by the charity but had to be put to sleep because she was so emaciated,

Dog killer Nicole Lauren Jones from Ferryhill, Co Durham
Gypsy was lying on the sofa in a lethargic state

RSPCA inspector Garry Palmer attended Jones’ home on 12 January 2019

Dog killer Nicole Jones from Ferryhill, Co Durham

He said: ‘I could see through the window that the conditions inside were awful with dog faeces and household rubbish littered throughout.

‘There was a young tan and white crossbreed curled up on the floor dead next to a chewed-up Pot Noodle pot.

‘Two surviving dogs, a young male Rottweiler called Bronson and a grey long-haired lurcher called Gypsy, were both obviously very underweight.’

Insp Palmer added: ‘Gypsy was laid out on a settee and appeared very weak and listless.

‘She barely moved when I knocked on the window.

‘When we got inside, we found a tub of fence paint in the house had been knocked over revealing paw prints on top of the worktops and even inside the empty fridge. It was a very upsetting scene.’

The surviving dogs were immediately taken to a veterinary surgery for emergency treatment.

Gypsy was very emaciated. As soon as she was offered food and water she ate and drank immediately. She continued to eat well while hospitalised, being fed small amounts four times a day, and she gained 45% of her original body weight in less than three weeks.

Sadly, Bronson was put to sleep on veterinary advice. Insp Palmer described the dead dog in the house as the most underweight dog he had ever encountered.

He said: ‘In my opinion this is as bad as it gets – depriving animals of their basic needs of food and water and as a consequence one dog paid the ultimate price.’

Dog killer Nicole Lauren Jones from Ferryhill, Co Durham

The RSPCA had given Jones advice in September 2018, yet she ignored this advice and made things worse by taking on a third dog in the meantime.

‘She could have easily contacted the RSPCA for help’, Palmer added.

12 weeks in prison suspended for 18 months; 20-day Rehabilitation Activity Requirement; £400 costs and £115 victim surcharge. Disqualified from keeping animals for ten years, with no appeal to have this lifted for seven years.

Chronicle Live

Burnhope, Durham: Kevin Knox

#TheList puppy farmer Kevin Knox, born 02/12/1959, of 2 The Grove, Burnhope, Durham DH7 0AH – sold poorly puppies without a licence to unsuspecting buyers

Puppy dealer Kevin Knox of Burnhope, Durham
Kevin Knox, who was previously exposed in a BBC documentary on puppy farming, has finally ben sent to jail and has also been hit with a huge tax bill

Kevin Knox, who traded as Ivy Leaf Kennels, sold puppies which buyers complained were sick on three occasions, while not in possession of a pet shop licence.

Two of those sales were made to customers who had responded to adverts placed under the false name of Graham Thompson.

Knox has now been jailed for eight months and given a five year ban from operating a pet shop, following a prosecution by Durham County Council.

Newcastle Crown Court heard how Knox was a partner in Ivy Leaf at a premises elsewhere in the village, under a pet shop licence, until March 2018.

A judge was told that the council’s animal health team investigated beyond this date and concluded that the premises was still being run as a pet shop despite a licence no longer being in place.

Evidence was found of Knox advertising on the pet shop’s website and other online sales pages using a false name.

The court heard how in June 2018, the council received a complaint of a puppy, having been purchased via the Ivy Leaf website, becoming ill on the day of purchase.

Enquiries revealed that the purchasers contacted the business and spoke to Knox.

They then attended the Ivy Leaf site where Knox’s business partner showed them a selection of puppies and sold them one.

Further enquiries revealed that the defendant bought microchips and that he took 33 puppies in to vets between June and August 2018.

Knox pleaded guilty to two charges at Newton Aycliffe Magistrates Court in March – operating without a pet shop licence and giving false information as to his identity.

The sentencing hearing was told how Knox’s licence had been due for renewal in December 2017 and how he had taken until the February of the following year to seek this.

However the council refused the application in April 2018. The business had considered appealing but chose not to.

At the time, it had 30 dogs on the premises and the court heard Knox panicked and did not know what to do.

He accepted he could have called the council to ask but did not. Knox chose to sell the remaining puppies without a licence and used a neighbour’s name, although receipts were given in the name of Ivy Leaf.

The judge was told Knox had since lost his business, his house and his wife; broken his ankles and was in receipt of Universal Credit.

Sentencing: four months in prison for the offence of giving false information and one month for not having a pet shop licence, with these to be served at the same time. He was given a further four months in prison for breaching a suspended sentence. Five-year ban on operating a pet shop.

Chronicle Live

Coxhoe, Co Durham: Christopher Paul Adam

#TheList Christopher Paul Adam, born 04/10/92, of The Avenue, Coxhoe, County Durham DH6 4AD – kept dogs Charlie and Lola in horrific conditions and deprived them of food and water

Christopher Paul Adam and the dogs he neglected and starved

RSPCA inspectors turned up at father-of-two Adam’s former home on Heathway, Seaham, in August 2018 where Lola was found in a dog crate in his backyard and Charlie was found in a brick outhouse.

The dogs were noticeably thirsty and starving and had nowhere comfortable to sleep.

RSPCA inspector, Rowena Proctor, said: “I was shocked to see how Lola and Charlie were living, particularly after being shown through what was an immaculately clean house.

“Lola was in a dog crate that was entirely empty aside from her, curled up in a ball. There was no bedding, food or water. Adam let her out then went to an outhouse from where he let out Charlie.

Convicted animal abuser Chris Adam now of Coxhoe, Co Durham, kept his dogs in shocking conditions and deprived them of food and water
Charlie has recovered from her ordeal at the hands of her negligent owner Chris Adam of Coxhoe, Co Durham

“It was immediately obvious that both dogs were very thirsty and that Lola in particular was hungry. They quickly started to drink dirty puddle water and what appeared to be rainwater that had filled a dirty kitchen bowl. Charlie toileted and Lola immediately ate it.

“Lola was obviously very, very thin and her white coat was dirty and smelly, her feet and legs were stained brown and yellow.

“Adam allowed me to look inside the outhouse which had very little natural light and was piled high with tools and other belongings leaving Charlie – who is a large dog – with very little space to move.

“There was no comfortable place for Charlie to rest. There was a piece of old carpet on the floor but, as she couldn’t escape from the tiny space she was in to toilet, it was heavily soiled with her own urine and faeces.

“The smell was overpowering. It must have been an absolutely awful place to be confined.

“There was a water bowl inside the outhouse but it was empty and dry.”

Convicted animal abuser Chris Adam now of Coxhoe, Co Durham, kept his dogs in shocking conditions and deprived them of food and water
Springer spaniel Lola will always be of small stature after being starved by her cruel owner Chris Adam of Coxhoe

Both dogs were removed with the owner’s permission and taken to a vets for examination before being taken into possession by police on vet advice.

Lola weighed 6.4kg and was emaciated with her ribs, pelvis and spine all able to be seen through her coat and a vet said her size has been stunted and she will always be of small stature as a result of being starved at a young age.

Charlie weighed 25.2kg and was very underweight. The vet stated that a dog of Charlie’s size should weigh in excess of 30kg.

In mitigation, the court heard that construction worker Adam had been going through a difficult time and was of previous good character.

18 weeks in jail – suspended for 12 months – and 15 rehabilitation activity days. Ordered to pay £300 costs and £115 victim surcharge. Banned for life from keeping animals.


Ferryhill, County Durham: Matthew Dennis Parker

#TheList Matthew Dennis Parker, born c. 1993, of Newton Street, Ferryhill, Co Durham DL17 8PW – abandoned three kittens in an empty property. One kitten found dead, the others were skin and bone.

Officers were called to Parker’s home after the RSPCA had established that he had not been back to his house to attend to the kittens for at least three days.

RSPCA inspector Clare Wilson said: “We had seen two kittens – Thor and Belle – on the windowsill of what we assumed was a bedroom upstairs, and they didn’t seem to have access to the rest of the house.

“When officers went in they found the kittens shut in.

“Tragically, a third kitten, Tigger, was found dead on the bed.

“All three of them were literally skin and bones but fortunately, with a lot of TLC, Thor and Belle have gone on to make a full recovery and have been rehomed.”

In mitigation the court heard that Parker was working a lot of hours at the time and thought he had left enough food for the kittens. They were told the last thing he wanted was to cause them suffering and regretted what had happened.

Inspector Wilson said: “We are seeing more and more people leaving their pets unattended for long periods. Not only is this unacceptable, it is against the law. If you must leave your pet unattended for more than 24 hours you must make arrangements for a responsible person to care for them in your absence.

“As this very sad case demonstrates, the consequences can be heartbreaking.”

Sentencing: 26 weeks in prison suspended for 12 months; 200 hours of unpaid work, 20 rehabilitation days; total of £415 costs and charges. Disqualified from keeping animals for 20 years.

Northern Echo

Stockton-on-Tees, County Durham: Thomas John Black

#TheList Thomas John Black, born 13/01/1995, of Laurel Road, Eaglescliffe, Stockton-on-Tees TS16 0BD – moved out of his house, leaving his pet cat behind

Heartless Thomas John Black from Stockton-on-Tees has been banned from keeping animals for 10 years after abandoning his pet cat, Cass.
Heartless Thomas John Black from Stockton-on-Tees has been banned from keeping animals for 10 years after abandoning his pet cat, Cass.

Black pleaded guilty to three offences under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 in a prosecution case brought by the RSPCA.

Heartless Thomas John Black from Stockton-on-Tees has been banned from keeping animals for 10 years after abandoning his pet cat, Cass.
Face only a mother could love: convicted animal abuser Thomas John Black from Stockton-on-Tees.

RSPCA inspector Clare Wilson said: “The house was filthy, with faeces and urine everywhere and rubbish strewn across every room.

“Cass had no access to food or water and, on top of both of these things, Cass had serious veterinary needs.

“Cass had previously suffered with seizures, which Black was aware of and was told needed treatment, but he moved out and left him behind in the property.”

Heartless Thomas John Black from Stockton-on-Tees has been banned from keeping animals for 10 years after abandoning his pet cat, Cass.
Thomas John Black abandoned Cass in an empty property, leaving her to starve to death.

In mitigation the court heard Black had been going through a difficult time and had moved back in with family.

Cass has now been signed over to the RSPCA and hopefully will now be able to be rehomed.

Inspector Wilson said: “I’m dealing with more and more abandonment cases like this one.

“Abandoning an animal in this way is completely unacceptable.

“If you cannot attend to your pet for whatever reason, you must make arrangements for a responsible person to care for them in your absence.”

12-month community order, 25 rehabilitation days, ordered to pay £300 costs and an £85 victim surcharge. Disqualified from keeping animals for ten years.

Northern Echo

Rowan West travellers site, Darlington, County Durham: William Henry Welch and William Chates

#TheList William (‘Billy’) Henry Welch, born c. 1989, and William Chates, born c. 1965, both of Rowan West caravan site, Levisham Lane, Darlington DL2 1QZ – for “horrific and abhorrent” cockfighting offences

Travellers Billy Welsh (top left) and William Chates organised and participated in cruel cockfights
Travellers Billy Welsh (top left) and William Chates organised and participated in cruel cockfights

North Yorkshire Police officers described footage of the cockfights, recorded on a mobile phone, as one of the worst examples of animal cruelty they had ever seen – and hailed the “landmark” custodial sentence.

On 13 January 2018, acting on an anonymous call to the police control room, officers from North Yorkshire Police’s Rural Taskforce and the RSPCA attended premises at Skutterskelf, near Stokesley, North Yorkshire.

A number of men were located there. Officers searched buildings and vehicles, and seized a total of 27 live birds, some of which were bleeding from fresh cuts to the body and head. Inside a stable block, officers located bird feathers, and dried and fresh bloodstains on the floor and carpet.

During the enquiry, an examination was carried out on a mobile phone recovered from Welch, which revealed he was present at a number of other cockfights, on 19 December 2017 and 4 January 2018.

Investigators described the extremely graphic video footage on the phone as “sickening”.

The RSPCA provided expert evidence about the condition of the birds, and arranged for their safe storage and ongoing care.

Billy Welch pleaded guilty to charges of causing an animal fight to take place, keeping animals for fighting, and being present at an animal fight on three occasions in December 2017 and January 2018.

Travellers Billy Welsh (top left) and William Chates organised and participated in cruel cockfights
William Henry Welch

Jailing Welch, magistrates told him: “You put your own recreational needs before the welfare of your animals, in the most horrific and abhorrent circumstances.”

William Chates pleaded guilty to being present at an animal fight.

Two further defendants were found not guilty.

Billy Welch was sentenced to 20 weeks in jail, disqualified from keeping all animals for 20 years, and ordered to pay a total of £2,000 costs.

William Chates was sentenced to 120 hours of unpaid work, disqualified from keeping all animals for 10 years, and ordered to pay £170 costs.

North Yorkshire Police
Northern Echo

St Helen Auckland, Co Durham: Frankie Williams

#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

Vile dog abuser Frankie Williams from St Helen Auckland, Co Durham, and victim Rocky, who was in an appalling condition when rescued.
Vile dog abuser Frankie Williams from St Helen Auckland, Co Durham, and victim Rocky, who was in an appalling condition when rescued.

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.

12-month conditional discharge,  £700 costs and a £20 victim surcharge. NO BAN.

Northern Echo

Seaham, County Durham: Brenda Cooper

#TheList Brenda Cooper, aged 58, of XX Stanley Street, Seaham SR7 0AH – failed to take cancer-stricken pet cat Ava to vet

Pets abused by Brenda Cooper of Seaham, Co Durham
Cat Ava had to be euthanised but Alfie and four other cats were saved and are available for rehoming.

RSPCA inspectors visited Cooper’s home and found Ava with a large infected tumour in her stomach. She had never been seen by a vet The animal was also severely underweight and sadly had to be put to sleep.

Speaking about the case RSPCA Inspector Cathy Maddison said: “When I visited the property in April this year, I found a dog and five cats.

“One cat – Ava – was in an absolutely shocking condition. [She] had a very large infected tumour on her stomach which was open and filled with pus.

“She was also extremely underweight – just skin and bone. With the owner’s consent, I rushed her to the vet.

“Sadly, due to the inoperable and cancerous tumour, Ava’s condition was so severe that to prevent her suffering any further the vet decided the kindest option was to put the poor cat to sleep, also with the consent of the owner.

“This was an awful case as there was nothing that could be done for Ava by the time the RSPCA was made aware of the situation.

“But I’m just thankful that Alfie the dog and the other cats are in our care and they too are no longer at risk of suffering.”

Total of £430 in fines, costs and charges. Three-year ban on keeping animals (expires August 2021).

Sunderland Echo

Stockton-on-Tees, County Durham: Courtney Layton and Ian Tait

#TheList Courtney Marie Layton, born 15/04/1999, of Stockton-on-Tees TS19, and partner Ian David Tait, born 06/06/1973, of 42 Dover Road, Stockton-on-Tees TS19 0JT –  left horses starving in deplorable conditions

“Vulnerable” Courtney Layton and some images showing horrific suffering she caused to her horses

Layton , whom her lawyer described as “vulnerable”, and Tait both pleaded guilty to animal neglect charges between March 11 and April 1, 2018.

Their horses had been kept in shocking conditions at an allotments in Port Clarence, with one horse laying in thick mud and another so skinny an RSPCA inspector could feel his spine, ribs, pelvic bones and shoulder blades through his thick coat.

John Ellwood, prosecuting on behalf of the RSPCA,  outlined the squalid conditions inspectors saw when they visited the allotment where the animals were found.

He said: “In the gaps and at the entrance to the make-shift stable there were exposed nails and wire which would present a hazard to the horses.

“While the inspector was on site Harley got his feet caught in a pallet and had to be released. There were no dry areas, no grass, no hay, no adequate shelter and no bedding.”

He added: “The entire allotment was thick with wet mud and faeces. There was lots of rubble, broken glass, wire and a long piece of barbed wire on the floor.”

All the animals were later seen by a vet who confirmed that the conditions the animals had been kept in were totally unsuitable for horses.

“The vet’s opinion is that Blaze and Little Man had been starved to the point of emaciation and were clearly suffering,” Mr Ellwood added.

Blaze and Little Man belonged to Layton, while Dinky and Harley were Tait’s horses.

Ian Tait and Courtney Layton leave Teesside Magistrates' Court after an appearance in connection with animal cruelty charges
Tait and Layton outside court

The court heard how attention was first drawn to the allotment when the pony Blaze was seen to be collapsed on the floor.

Members of the public had been feeding him and alerted the RSPCA.

An inspector later found the pony lying in thick wet mud on his right side, making no effort to lift his head or stand up.

The court was told in mitigation that Layton had been heavily pregnant when the offence occurred and had struggled to go up to look after the horses each day.

Danielle Hewitt, defending, said Layton, a mother-of-two, is a “vulnerable person” and “remorseful” for her actions.

The court was told she had been dealing with “a number of issues in her personal life” and that she has suffered with depression for as long as she can remember.

She added that the horses had only been kept at the allotments “temporarily”.

Convicted horse abuser Ian Tait
Ian Tait

Discussing Tait, Ms Hewitt said he had only kept his horses at the allotment for one night.

After care from the RSPCA, the horses have made a full recovery and are now free from parasites. The two starved horses – Blaze and Little Man – have now reached a normal weight.

Layton was jailed for 18 weeks for causing unnecessary suffering to an animal.  She was also given a 12-week jail sentence for failing to meet the needs of the horses, which will run concurrently.

Tait was given a 12-week jail term for failing to meet the needs of the horses.

The pair were also disqualified from keeping animals for 10 years (expires August 2028).

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