#TheList equine sanctuary owner Ann Michelle Sim, born 26/08/1984, of Shearford Close, Barnstaple EX31 1AG – neglected and starved multiple horses in her care
Mother-of-three Ann Sim, who ran North Devon Equine Rescue in Rumsam, near Barnstaple, was given a 10-week suspended jail sentence and banned from keeping horses for 10 years after admitting three cruelty charges.
The RSPCA visited Sim’s so-called sanctuary and found horses so thin their spines and ribs could be seen through the skin.
Conditions were described as ‘chaotic’ with animals living in foul conditions among rubbish and with sparse and inadequate bedding.
Ponies and horses had overgrown feet and one had to have his eye removed because an infection had not been treated by a vet.
The court heard Sim had set up the centre with the best of intentions five years earlier but had struggled to cope when her personal life fell apart.
Prosecutor Kevin Withy said Sim had been on the radar of the RSPCA for some time before the offences were committed between June and September 2019.
In one of the foul stables inspectors discovered a mare and foal whose ribs and spine were visible due to lack of food. Conditions were filthy with little clean bedding and only ‘a limited amount of water’.
The animals had been suffering for a number of months and there was no control of parasites.
The chestnut mare, Bumble, also had severely overgrown feet and Sim had not called a vet. A Welsh gelding called Tiggy had an infected eye that needed to be removed and a pony, Punchy, was emaciated, anaemic and had overgrown feet.
Defence barrister Herc Ashworth said the 35-year-old set up the rescue centre to “help abandoned horses back to health” and had “no intention of causing suffering”.
“I accept it was not a deliberate act on your behalf,” the judge added.
All the animals have since been rehomed.
Sentencing: 10-week custodial sentence, suspended for 12 months. Ordered to pay £322 costs. Banned from keeping equines for 10 years.
Lahey had provided a foster home for the dog, after completing a charity’s home checks. But months later charity volunteers discovered Rex’s starved body in a black bag.
The chef told RSPCA investigators that he had not buried the rescue dog because he could not afford a spade.
North Staffordshire Justice Centre heard Lahey took Rex home on December 1, 2018. For the first few months, Lahey sent the charity regular updates, including photographs and videos of Rex’s progress. But the charity was later unable to contact the defendant and then received a call from a relative to collect Rex’s body on April 2, 2010.
Vets discovered that the rescue dog was emaciated – weighing just 12.35 kilograms. A post-mortem examination gave the cause of death as emaciation.
The vet’s report stated: “There is a strong possibility that he was left without food for a few days. During this time he would be hungry, potentially cold at night as he was confined to a shed, and possibly psychologically distressed as scratch marks were found in the shed along with soiling.”
Lahey told the RSPCA that Rex had struggled to put on weight and that he had left the dog with someone else when he went away for a few weeks last March. He said he returned to find Rex dead.
Following the case, RSPCA inspector Charlotte Melvin said: “It is horrendous to think of the suffering which poor Rex went through during the period leading up to his death.
“The vet’s report states he had been left in the shed for a number of days at least as scratch marks could be found near the door as Rex had desperately tried to get out.
“There is never an excuse not to feed a pet or seek veterinary treatment – if people are in need of help there are also plenty of animal charities that can help or in this case the animal rescue centre where Rex had come from would have taken him back.”
A spokesman for Pebbles Legacy, which placed Rex with Lahey, said: “We are so upset about what has happened to Rex and the suffering he must have endured. He was fostered by Lahey so he could have allowed us to take him back at any time if he was struggling but there was no indication of this at all.
“We carried out a number of home checks on Lahey which he passed and he sent us weekly updates, including videos and photographs, showing how well Rex was doing. There was even one of him looking so happy playing in the snow.
“We have no idea why this changed and it was awful to go the property and find a dog who we had cared for dead in such awful circumstances.
“It has been terribly upsetting for all our volunteers.”
Sentencing: ordered to pay a total of £850. Banned from keeping animals for life.
#TheList Melvyn Hall, born 02/04/1948, of Ashfield Mews, Wallsend NE28 7RG – hit German Shepherd rescue dog over the head with a hammer and strangled her with a piece of washing line, before dumping her body in the River Tyne
Melvyn Hall struck six-year-old German Shepherd Molly on the head before strangling her with a piece of washing line.
He then dumped her into the River Tyne. She was found washed up on December 6 2018 and the RSPCA were alerted.
RSPCA inspector Rowena Proctor said: “When the rescue called Hall he told them that Molly had died of a ruptured aneurysm and had been seen by a local vet but he couldn’t remember the name, which he re-iterated when I visited him the next day.
“However, in the interview that followed he said he had gone to the shop and come home to find her dead before going on to admit hitting Holly on the head with a hammer, strangling her with the washing line that was around her neck when her body was found and dumping her in the River Tyne.
“He said he did it because she was following him around and getting on his nerves and he lashed out.
“He showed me where he had done it, in his garden shed, and gave me the hammer he had used.”
Hall admitted two offences of causing unnecessary suffering to Molly under the Animal Welfare Act 2006.
Inspector Proctor said: “A post-mortem found that Molly had several fractures to skull and evidence of haemorrhaging however it was unlikely these injuries would have caused immediate death.
“The vet said that the attack on Molly from the person who cared for her would have caused immediate distress, which would have quickly passed into suffering when she received the blow from the hammer.
“The pain of a fracturing skull would be intense but the period of suffering wasn’t possible to establish from the post-mortem due to the decomposition of her body.
“They went on to say that the presence of the washing line and injuries to her neck, which were consistent with having been strangled, indicate that the owner was uncertain of the state of consciousness of Molly after she had been hit with the hammer.”
Sentencing: 18 weeks in prison suspended for 12 months; £1,000 costs. Lifetime disqualification on all animals.
#TheList Alexander Andrew McGhee, born 27/02/74, of Wellesley Road, Methil, Fife – battered his rescue dog to death in a drunken rage
The dog, named Murphy, suffered numerous injuries on his sides, lower back, abdomen and neck, as well as the brain bleed which caused him to die.
His owner Alexander “Eck” McGhee, a train driver with ScotRail based at Edinburgh’s Waverley Station, had denied killing the lurcher, but was found guilty following a trial at Kirkcaldy Sheriff Court.
Neighbours giving evidence described hearing a drunken McGhee return home in the early hours of the morning of 8 July 2017 followed by “yelping” and “scrabbling” noises coming from his flat.
They claimed to have heard an aggressive male voice shouting “bastard” and what sounded like “a dog being thrown against a wall”.
The couple said they were forced to leave the property because their own dog was so distressed by the horrific sounds coming from next door. They called police who attended some hours later.
During initial interview McGhee told police officers that Murray had bolted from the flat after he accidentally left the front door open.
McGhee said he had gone out to look for Murray and found him dead at the side of a nearby road. He said that the dog must have been hit by a vehicle. McGhee then led officers to the lurcher’s body which he had put in the boot of his car.
When asked by officers about injuries to his hand, which he appeared to be trying to hide with the sleeve of his jumper, McGhee claimed that he had punched the wall in temper after Murray escaped.
Veterinary evidence presented in court contradicted McGhee’s claims that Murray had been run over.
Veterinary pathologist Dr Bryn Tennant said he believed Murphy had sustained the injuries from being “hit, kicked or shaken with considerable force”.
Dr Tennant went on: “The outcome of the post-mortem examination was that this dog had been subjected to multiple traumatic incidents.
“The constellation of injuries, in my opinion, were not consistent with a road traffic accident.
“There is a very, very remote possibility that this dog was struck by a vehicle but from what I saw, I do not believe that happened on the basis on my examination.”
“The bleeding around the brain is the same as boxers get when they haemorrhage.”
Dr Tennant said that he would have expected to see damage to the skin and paws or crush injuries if the animal had been struck by a vehicle.
Giving evidence in his defence McGhee wept as he described how he had adopted Murray as a puppy in 2013 and he was “emaciated and full of worms and fleas”.
He described the dog, who was named after the tennis star Andy Murray, as “the biggest sook”, saying he would “go to anyone”.
Asked about the moment when he said he found Murray’s body, McGhee said: “He was just lying there. Just cold. Heavy.
“He had a tiny bit of blood coming out of his mouth. That was it.
There were four or five guys on their way to work at BiFab who asked me if it was my dog and offered to help me put him in the back of the car.”
McGhee’s lawyer, Scott McKenzie, asked him: “The neighbours describe hearing a fairly distressing incident going on within your property with the dogs. Did you engage in any distressing conduct towards your dogs?”
He said: “I’m not going to rescue dogs to hurt them.”
Mr McKenzie asked: “Did you lose your temper with the dog and cause him so much pain that he was in agony for minutes or possibly hours before he died?”
Fiscal depute Ronnie Hay told McGhee he was lying and said he had actually come home from a night out in a drunken state.
Mr Hay said: “Is it not the case that you came home drunk, acting aggressively and you took it out on the dogs and one of the dogs paid the ultimate price?”
He continued: “The couple next door left their flat because of the noise emanating from his property.
“When they returned they spoke of a bottle of bleach being outside the premises that wasn’t there when they left.
“They were adamant the noises were not a dog fight.
“They spoke of a male voice talking aggressively using language such as ‘bastard’.
“One heard slapping sounds and one said it sounded like the dog was being thrown against a wall.”
McGhee dismissed these allegations as lies, however, believing the neighbours giving evidence against him had a grudge against his police officer partner.
Having considered all of the evidence, Sheriff Alistair Thornton said he was satisfied that McGhee had caused Murphy’s death by inflicting blunt force trauma and found him guilty.
Sentencing McGhee Sheriff Thornton told him: “The veterinary evidence provided in that case indicated the degree of blunt force trauma suffered by the dog was substantial.”
“The social work report I have read indicates you maintain your denial of the offence and accordingly there is no remorse expressed by you.”
However, he said that he had to consider the impact of a jail sentence on McGhee’s family and children and the fact that he was a working man with a productive life. Taking all of this into account he handed him a community payback order and a 20-year ban on owning or having sole custody of a dog.
McGhee and his partner have another rescue dog, Dora, who has been cared for by a relative when his partner is absent since the offence on July 8, 2017.
McGhee’s solicitor said a rescue charity [source article states the Scottish Greyhound Trust but this isn’t correct] had monitored Dora and there were no concerns about either her or a guinea pig the couple have.
Sentencing: McGhee was placed on a community payback order and told to perform 240 hours of unpaid work. He was also banned from owning or having sole custody of any dog for 20 years.