#TheList Ashley Lauren Corner, born November 1985, of Park Avenue, Marton, Middlesbrough TS6 0AP – for the neglect of two dogs found in dire condition.
Corner’s dogs, West Highland terriers Harvey and Woody, were found by RSPCA officers with matted fur and paws covered in faeces.
The single mother-of-three boys, who is also a backyard breeder, pleaded guilty to causing unnecessary suffering to an animal between September 1 and 29, 2019.
Stuart Haywood, prosecuting on behalf of the RSPCA, said officers were called to Corner’s house after reports regarding the state of the dogs.
Mr Haywood said that Corner initially refused the RSPCA officers entry, but they subsequently returned and finally gained entry.
Corner’s home was found to have a “strong smell of urine and faeces” and the dogs were “covered in fleas” with “matted fur”.
The paws of one dog were covered in faeces and both also smelled strongly.
The court heard that Corner signed one of the dogs over to the RSPCA but refused to do so with the other.
Corner, now of Newton Aycliffe, admitted failing to adequately explore and address the causes of the poor condition of both dogs.
Sentencing: 12-month community order with 12 rehabilitation activity days. Ordered to pay £200 costs which will be taken out of her Universal Credit payments. Banned from keeping animals for five years.
#TheList Joseph Pocklington, born 16/10/1990, of Marshall Street, Darlington DL3 – ‘lost his temper’ and punched his pet dog in the face numerous times before dragging her by the neck
Joseph Pocklington was spotted by a woman in Crown Street, Darlington, who filmed the abuse on her phone before confronting him and taking the dog.
The witness then called the police who later found Pocklington asleep in a nearby church yard.
Alan Davies, prosecuting, said: “At around 4.20pm on Sunday, December 22, a witness was waiting to pick up her daughter on Crown Street in Darlington.
“She noticed the defendant sat on some steps with a black lurcher or greyhound type of dog on a short lead.
“She recorded him grabbing the dog by the neck, dragging it towards him and punching it to the face a number of times.
“The witness and her daughter challenged him and took the dog, he became upset by this and left. The witness then contacted the police who found him sleeping in a church yard.
“He was arrested and told police ‘yeah, I did give my dog a few slaps,’ he was then shown footage from the incident and became upset, saying he could not remember assaulting the dog and could only remember getting angry because the dog was trying to run into the traffic.”
Pocklington pleaded guilty to one count of causing unnecessary suffering to a protected animal.
Stephen Andrews, mitigating, said his client’s behaviour was out of character and he was very upset having watched the footage of the incident.
He said: “You have heard that when he was interviewed he became very upset and that’s because he was appalled by what he seen.
“You have a gentleman here who would describe himself as a dog lover. He has kept dogs for many years without any issues whatsoever, he looked after them and he protected them.
“How then does he end up before you for an offence of this type? He has over a period of time abused alcohol and has essentially become alcohol dependant.
“He has no recollection of the incident, but he tells me he can remember his feet becoming tangled with the dog lead and becoming angry.
“You have heard that police found him asleep in a public area a short time after, and that is because he was so intoxicated. He is incredibly remorseful.”
Sentencing: 12-month community order; total of £180 in costs and charges. Banned from keeping animals for two years (expires August 2022).
#TheList Michael Rodger Warren, born 20/06/1985, of Avondale Close, Grangetown, Middlesbrough TS6 9SD and with links to Guildford, Blackpool, Whitstable and Worthing – let a German Shepherd starve to death and left another with severe muscle wastage in squalid faeces-littered house
When RSPCA inspectors visited Michael Warren’s filthy home on June 27, 2020, they discovered the stricken dogs, Bolt and Panther. Very sadly, Bolt had already died from malnutrition while Panther had been starved to the point of emaciation. He weighed just 17.5kg, which is around half the weight of a healthy German Shepherd.
He had also suffered hair loss and was riddled with fleas.
When interviewed Warren was said to show “very little remorse” for what happened and “at one point he got up to make a cup of tea”.
Warren was charged with two counts of causing unnecessary suffering to a protected animal but didn’t even turn up to his trial at the Magistrates’ Court.
He was found guilty in his absence and also appeared on Thursday 10 July 2020 to be sentenced for breaching a suspended sentence order relating to an offence he was sentenced for in 2019.
Nicci Horton, mitigating, said her client had a diagnosis of dyslexia, had attended special needs schools in his youth and was taken into foster care at the age of six.
Ms Horton told the court that the puppies were bred by Warren’s mother, prolific backyard greeder Lucy Koca of Redcar. In June 2018 Koca had given her son two of the puppies as a birthday present but when he tried to return them, she refused to take them back.
Ms Horton agreed her client had been “negligent” in his actions, adding that he had been mostly living at another address at the time.
Warren has six previous convictions for eight offences.
#TheList Aaron Ray, born c. 2002, of 29 Mayfield Road, Sunderland SR4 0NE – stabbed a pet cockatiel to death in a fit of rage
Aaron Ray left the unnamed family pet with fatal injuries after plunging a knife into the back of her neck.
Northumbria Police officers found the deceased bird after being called to Ray’s home following reports of a disturbance. When questioned, Ray displayed an astonishing lack of remorse for his sickening cruelty, insisting “it’s just a bird”.
In court, Ray pleaded guilty to causing unnecessary suffering to an animal.
PC Peter Baker, wildlife officer at Northumbria Police, said Ray’s conviction should act as a reminder that animal cruelty is a criminal offence.
He said: “Aaron Ray showed a total disregard for the welfare of this bird and inflicted catastrophic injuries that it could not survive from.
“This kind of behaviour is not only reckless and upsetting, but a criminal offence and that’s the lesson that Ray now must learn.
“We are a nation of animal lovers, so it is upsetting to come across incidents such as this where the defendant has caused inevitable and unnecessary suffering to an animal.”
Sentencing: 12-week custodial sentence, suspended for one year. 15-year ban from owning animals.
#TheList Lauren Jane Eliot (aka Lauren Purvis), born 02/08/1997, of 5 Thomas Street, Annfield Plain, Stanley, Co Durham DH9 7SN – left a poorly British bulldog puppy to live in a yard full of rubbish and a mouldy sofa.
Eighteen-month-old British bulldog Royston was underweight, had skin and ear conditions and was living in a cluttered yard full of hazards when the RSPCA rescued him from his heartless owner, Lauren Jane Eliot.
The single mother-of-one was banned from keeping animals for five years after she was convicted of one offence under the Animal Welfare Act.
She failed to appear before Newton Aycliffe Magistrates’ Court but was convicted in her absence of not taking reasonable steps to ensure the dog’s needs for a suitable environment were met and not seeking veterinary attention for his various ailments.
RSPCA inspector Cathy Maddison said: “I had been to this property in April and given advice to the couple living there to clean up the yard where they said Royston – an 18-month-old British bulldog – was living in the daytime.
“I got another call about him in August and when I went the situation had deteriorated.
“Royston was lying on a mouldy sofa in the yard, which was full of hazards.
“He had lost weight, had red skin and his nails were long.
“Eliot said she was taking him to the vets so I advised that needed to happen and the yard needed to be tidied up but unfortunately when I went back over a week later neither had.
“The yard was even worse, with faeces everywhere, and the shed Royston was using for shelter had been filled with chairs so his only resting place was the now very wet sofa.
“Eliot agreed I could take Royston to the vets to be checked over where he was found to be underweight.
“The skin under his chin and neck appeared red raw, his ears were very dirty and he smelled bad.
“He was taken into possession by police on vet advice and placed in our care pending the outcome of our investigation.”
The court heard that the defendant had been left with the dog when she broke up with her partner and was not in a position to care for him.
Inspector Maddison said: “Royston is now fully recovered and doing great.
“He’s a fantastic dog, and I’m really happy that we’ll now be able to find a fantastic new forever home for him.”
Sentencing: ordered to pay a total of £400. Five-year ban on keeping animals.
#TheList Anthony Bittlestone, born 28/12/1970, of Lilywhite Terrace, Easington Lane, Houghton-le-Spring, Sunderland DH5 – banned from keeping animals after his dog was found starving.
Jack Russell Riley was described as “emaciated” and weighed just 3kg when found, which was less than half of the recommended weight for his breed. His nails were overgrown and he was also shedding fur. The floor of the kitchen where he was kept was littered faeces.
His owner Anthony Bittlestone pleaded guilty to two offences of causing unnecessary suffering and failing to ensure the dog’s welfare.
RSPCA prosecutor Stewart Haywood told the court that an inspector first visited Bittlestone’s house on September 30, 2019, but was not allowed in. He did, however, see Riley and noticed that his hips, ribs and spine were clearly visible. Inspector Haywood gave Bittlestone advice on improving the dog’s body condition.
The RSPCA paid further visits to Bittlestone’s home in October 2019 but there was no answer at the door.
After receiving no contact from Bittlestone, the RSPCA gained access to the property and found Riley in a “shocking condition”.
Mr Haywood said: “Riley was extremely thin and very lethargic. The kitchen floor was littered with faeces and the smell was described as disgusting.”
The pet was taken to a vet and examined. Blood tests were also carried out.
“Riley had a weight of 3.09kg, an emaciated body condition,” said Mr Haywood. “A dog of that type should weigh about 7kg.
“The dog was shedding fur and its nails were too long. Blood test results showed that Riley had simply been starved.”
Jason Smith, representing Bittlestone, said this happened at a time when the defendant, who worked as a milkman, was experiencing difficulties.
His partner had left him and his father had been diagnosed with a terminal illness. Bittlestone found himself struggling to look after his parents and the dog as well as keeping up with his work, it was said.
Mr Smith added: “While Riley was clearly underweight, there was actually no long-term deficit at all. There was no internal damage, no veterinary or medical condition to show that Riley will be adversely affected.
“Mr Bittlestone was feeding Riley. The reality is that Riley was clearly not getting the nutritional value from the food that has been given to him.”
Sentencing: 18-month community order, 25 days of rehabilitation activities and 150 hours of unpaid work; £490 in costs. Banned from keeping animals for 10 years.
#TheList Claire Hewitt, born 10/08/1988, of Park Road, South Moor, near Stanley, County Durham DH9
Single mother-of-five Hewitt was given an order banning her from keeping pets and ordered to pay £150 after she was convicted of causing unnecessary suffering after failing to address a dog’s poor condition between September 2019 and October 2019.
She was also in the dock for failing to take steps to ensure that the needs of a dog and three cats were met.
#TheList Amy Rutherford, born 12/01/1997, of Coltsfoot Gardens, Gateshead NE10 9RE – locked her two cats in her squalid home while she went to live with her boyfriend
Cats Lucy and Lola almost starved to death after their owner, Amy Rutherford, abandoned them in a dark and freezing property for six weeks.
In court, she pleaded guilty to one count of causing unnecessary suffering to an animal and two of failing to ensure the welfare of an animal.
The court heard that the RSPCA were contacted in early September 2019 after members of the public reported seeing the “distressed” cats jumping up at the windows of Rutherford’s home.
An officer attended and left an RSPCA card, as well as putting sellotape around the hinges of the front door.
The investigator returned a number of times over the following days and saw that the tape was still intact, meaning nobody had entered or left the property.
Eventually, the police gained access on September 20.
Stewart Haywood, prosecuting for the RSPCA, said: “The conditions inside were appalling. There was a strong smell of urine and faeces and it was dark and cold.
“The light switches were not working and the rooms were covered in rubbish.”
The court heard that bin bags had been scratched at by the cats and there was no food or water in their bowls.
The prosecutor added: “The officer found Lucy. She was opening her mouth repeatedly but no sound was coming out. Her pink collar was wrapped around her hips rather than her neck.
“Her bones could be felt and her eyes were sunk.”
Lucy collapsed when she was put in a basket to the point officers thought she had died.
Lola, who was in a slightly better condition, was also seized and taken to a vets, where both were discovered to be emaciated and Lucy to be suffering from hypothermia.
When interviewed, Rutherford claimed she’d only ever left the pets for a couple of days and hadn’t replied to the RSPCA card because she’d been too busy with work.
John Williams, defending, said Rutherford was drinking too much at the time and suffered from secondary bipolar disorder and depression.
He added: “There’s no excuse and she accepts that. She abandoned the cats for about six weeks. She went to stay with her boyfriend as her mental health was deteriorating. She was a manager in a shop but she had to give that up as she could no longer carry on.”
District Judge Kate Meek said: “You had to move out of the house because it was uncomfortable for you because it was cold and dark, but, it’s alright for them [the cats] to suffer and not you?
“They, like any other pet animal, rely completely on you for their care and attention. When you take ownership of them, it’s effectively an agreement that you’re going to look after them.
“They’re technically no more able to do so themselves than a small, young child.”
The judge added: “I have looked at the pictures and they are quite distressing, as it is distressing to hear the particulars.
“It’s absolutely clear that this was over a prolonged period of time and both cats suffered a high degree of harm because of your lack of care and attention that you must be expected to provide any animal in your care.
“There is no justification or explanation for it.”
Sentencing: 18-week prison sentence, suspended for 18 months, with 250 hours of unpaid work. Banned from keeping pets indefinitely.
#TheList Steven Anthony Harrison, born 12/08/1985, of Brereton Road, Middlesbrough TS4 3HS – starved and neglected his pet dog and let him stray
Steven Harrison’s dog, known as Benson, was found “skinny, lethargic and retching’ with a potato stuck in his throat. He had also swallowed a dishcloth which was lodged in his stomach.
Career criminal Harrison, who has racked up dozens of convictions for house burglary, was convicted of two offences under the Animal Welfare Act: one of causing unnecessary suffering and one of failing to meet Benson’s needs.
A member of the public had alerted the RSPCA after the dog was found straying on February 4, 2019.
Inspector Clare Wilson said: “When I first saw Benson he was skinny, lethargic and kept retching and coughing constantly. I could feel and see all of his ribs and his spine.
“It was late at night so I took him to a nearby vet surgery where staff were concerned that he had an obstruction.
“He was put onto a drip and given pain relief and medication to help with the sickness. Vets did lots of tests and x-rays showed a large obstruction in his chest cavity, behind the heart. He needed a special operation to remove it – and that’s when vets found a whole potato and dishcloth inside him.
“It was touch and go whether he’d survive the complex operation but, luckily, he pulled through.”
Inspector Wilson traced Harrison and was told that Benson had been vomiting for a number of days but no veterinary treatment was sought and he was allowed to stray around the area.
She continued: “He was extremely poorly by the time we were able to get him the vet. He was lucky to survive.”
Benson was signed over to the RSPCA after court.
The inspector continued: “Poor Benson has a stricture in his oesophagus which means he will probably always need to be fed small amounts of food regularly so this incident has had a life-changing effect on him.
“He’s doing well otherwise though and is such a lovely dog that the animal centre staff who are caring for him are hopeful they will be able to find him the special home he needs and deserves when he’s ready.”
Sentencing: six weeks’ custody suspended for 12 months; ordered to do 80 hours of unpaid work and to pay a victim surcharge of £115. Disqualified from keeping all animals for seven years.
The ten-year-old dog, whom Henry had owned since she was a puppy, was found by the RSPCA in a “dreadful condition”, weighing just 16kg and having no body fat.
Police were called to Henry’s previous address in Eaglescliffe, Stockton, after an RSPCA inspector saw Shadow looking starved in the garden through slots in the fence. The inspector found two empty dog bowls.
Stuart Bennett, prosecuting, told the court the dog would have been “in pain and suffering weakness” due to malnutrition.
Mr Bennett estimated that this suffering would have lasted around four weeks but “only occurred due to neglect which had obviously been far longer”.
Henry claimed she had fed Shadow but admitted it “probably wasn’t enough”.
Shadow was also found to have cataracts, which Henry had dismissed as “glazed eyes” due to her age. Henry agreed that she should have taken the dog to the vet and said she hadn’t done so as she “didn’t want to look like a bad person”.
The prosecution said that Henry had bought two kittens whom she had taken to the vet regularly, adding that this was “difficult to comprehend”.
The court was shown a series of photographs as evidence of Henry’s neglect. These included photos of Shadow with a protruding rib cage and spine.
A probation service report described how Henry’s personal circumstances had changed after the collapse of her marriage. They said that her neglect of Shadow was “a result of her burying her head in the sand with everything else going on in her life”.
Henry expressed remorse for her actions and agreed that she could have cared for Shadow “a lot better”.
Danielle Hewitt, defending, said that Henry’s two children would “suffer if a custodial sentence were to be imposed”.
Sentencing: 12 weeks in custody suspended for 12 months. 25 days of rehabilitation activity. Ordered to pay £522 costs. Banned from keeping animals for five years. Deprivation order on Shadow and her two kittens.