#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.
Lindi Meyer, prosecuting, said the defendant lived with Rocco and his partner Hilson. Both accepted responsibility for the pet.
The RSPCA and police went to the house on September 2, 2019, after reports of an injured dog. Initially the pair did not answer but Hilson let them in just as police were about to force entry.
The dog had obvious leg and head injuries, said the prosecutor.
Hilson said Rocco had hurt his leg trying to get over a gate almost a month before. She confirmed he had not seen a vet.
“There was a strong smell of ammonia and faeces on the floor,” added Ms Meyer.
A police officer said the injured state of the dog was ‘heartbreaking’ and he had never seen such a badly injured animal before.
Rocco had multiple cuts, dislocated femur, swelling, two large head wounds that were so severe vets were unable to examine his right eye, a fractured tooth, cheek, three fractured ribs, and a fracture to the right hock which was several weeks old and so severe the leg had to be amputated.
There were stains on the carpets which Hilson said Rocco had left after he injured his head trying to escape from his cage.
Dolling said the injury to Rocco’s leg happened about one and a half months before when he tried to jump over a door. Both denied mistreating him and Dolling said he didn’t take him for treatment because he thought the vet might think he had beaten him. He couldn’t explain the fracture to the dog’s eye and denied beating him. He said he thought the animal would die without vet attention.
Texts between the two revealed more of what really happened to the dog.
Hilson demanded to know what had happened to Rocco’s face. Dolling replied: “I just went mad on him earlier. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it. I’m f****d.”
Hilson said the dog was ‘only a baby’ and hadn’t done anything to deserve such treatment.
Dolling answered: “You know what I get. I get what you’re saying. I’m sorry, I’m a nasty c**t.”
Hilson said there was a history of domestic violence in the relationship. Dolling now accepted responsibility for what he had done.
Nobody was present at the time Dolling injured the dog and the court was not told what triggered his violence. A vet found the injuries had been sustained by blunt force trauma on at least two occasions. They would have caused considerable pain for Rocco for at least six weeks. The skull fracture was caused by being struck with a ‘heavy linear object’ not consistent with Dolling’s explanation about the door. Injuries to the ribs were caused by kicks, stamps, or throwing against an object, said the vet.
Ms Meyer said Dolling’s actions had been ‘deliberate, gratuitous and caused suffering and pain on a number of occasions’. There had been prolonged neglect over months and no vet treatment despite both being aware of the injuries.
The court was played a video of Rocco in the care of the RSPCA, running and chasing a ball. “He’s doing really well,” after learning to walk again, said the prosecutor.
Hilson has yet to sign him over to the RSPCA’s care and has stated she wants him back.
Ben Darby, defending, said Dolling accepted full responsibility for the injuries and was ‘tearful’ and sorry for what he had done. He wanted help for his anger management issues and was motivated to change.
“These are pretty horrendous offences,” said Mr Darby. But he said Dolling had held his hands up and admitted his crime, even though nobody saw him cause the injuries and for that he should be given credit.
Hilson, who did not cause injuries to Rocco, admits a lesser charge under the Animal Welfare Act. She will be sentenced at a later date.
Sentencing: suspended four-month jail sentence. He was told to do up to 10 days anger management with probation and 60 hours of unpaid work. He was banned from keeping all animals for life but can appeal after just five years.
#TheList greyhound breeder/trainer Clive Donald Elliott, born 19/11/1979, of 35 Limes Avenue, Swindon SN2 1QQ – convicted of multiple counts of cruelty towards dogs in his care
Clive Elliott binged on drink and drugs while his dogs starved in kennels at the home he now shares with his mother. When police and an RSPCA officer visited the property they found one dog stuffed in a freezer, two others dead on the floor and other animals starved.
The greyhound trainer and breeder, who had inherited a number of dogs from his late father, left the animals unfed for around four days.
But a vet who examined the stricken animals after they were rescued from their kennel suggested the dogs had been subject to weeks or possibly months of neglect.
RSPCA prosecutor Matthew Knight said officers had found eight dogs. Three were dead, including one that had been put into a bin liner and stuffed into a chest freezer.
“There was no dog food whatsoever in the property,” the solicitor said.
The five other dogs were in a poor condition. Their nails were overgrown, some had abscesses and scurvy.
One of the animals had a severe mouth ulcer, which Elliott later admitted knowing about. The dog initially wolfed down food but died a week later after his condition deteriorated.
Autopsies were carried out on the dead dogs. The bone marrow of one was a glutinous liquid – the result of poor nutrition. The vet said it would have taken weeks or possibly months to reach that stage.
As an example of how poorly nourished the greyhounds were, Mr Knight said one dog had increased in weight by a third in just one month after it was taken from the house. He said: “The vet puts this purely down to providing the proper food.”
Interviewed by the authorities, Elliott said matters had deteriorated after the breakdown of a relationship. He had turned to drink and drugs and did not ask for help as he was “too proud”.
He told the RSPCA his mother, who has dementia, would have fed them had there been any dog food. He added: “There wasn’t any food for my mum that’s how low I was.”
The dogs Elliott was accused of having neglected were racing as recently as January 2019. Racing cards suggest Gemstone Bobbie, who added a third to his body weight after being rescued, was at the Swindon track twice that month. “C D Elliott” was the trainer
Elliott’s lawyer Terry McCarthy of Jeary & Lewis Solicitors said his client had inherited dogs after the death of his father in 2014.
He had owned his own printing business and was looking after the dogs on the side. He changed jobs, working night shifts and caring for the animals during the day.
He found he was not coping well and, when his relationship broke down, matters spiralled.
“Things went wrong there and Mr Elliott was affected by the breakdown,” Mr McCarthy said.
“It seems some dogs were removed from him by someone his ex-partner met and the problems with the breakdown and the lack of income got in top of him.
“There is reference to the back problem you have heard about for which he has been prescribed medication.”
Elliott had been abusing prescription medication on top of that. “It’s my feeling that Mr Elliott was suffering at the time from severe depression. It’s unfortunate that he didn’t go and see a doctor and there is no medical evidence to confirm it.
“It’s quite obvious that as a result of that depression he wasn’t coping with anything.
“You’ve read in the report he couldn’t bring himself to look after his mother properly – as well as his dogs.
“Some of the dogs I think you’ve heard about were owned by another person. That person did not provide food for them either.
“Mr Elliott had no money.”
Chairman of the bench Jane Durrant said Elliott had shown no evidence of remorse.
“The pictures we have been shown are extremely distressing and the number of dogs and the level of suffering they endured is really quite appalling,” she said.
“The distress caused to these dogs was just quite unbelievable.”
Elliott did not appear to react as the sentence was read out.
Sentencing: 20 weeks’ imprisonment. Ordered to pay a total of £872 costs and charges. Banned from owning dogs for life.
#TheList Debbie Clara Wills, born c. 1990 of Lower Cranesmoor, Bovington, Wareham BH20 6LR – starved her dog to death and left his emaciated body in a garden shed
Six-year-old black and white springer spaniel, Finn, was matted and had overgrown nails and large open sores when his body was found. The dog weighed 8.8kg at the time of his death – the weight he should have been at three months old.
Wills also kept a second springer spaniel in a terrible condition. That dog, a three-year-old known as Aero, weighed just 6.4kg, and was so thin he was unable to lift his head when RSPCA inspectors visited Wills’ home.
A court heard the dogs had been kept in a cage, with food just beyond their reach. Wills walked past their cage, which was in the hallway of her home, but ignored their suffering.
Officials were alerted by a member of the public concerned for the welfare of Wills’ pets.
RSPCA Inspector Graham Hammond visited her home where he found Aero in a collapsed state. The dog’s skull, shoulder bones, spine and leg bones were visible through his fur. He also had very matted ears, open sores, and curled, overgrown nails.
Insp Hammond then found the body of Finn stored in a garden shed. A post-mortem found the dog had starved to death.
Aero was rushed to a vet who provided emergency treatment. Miraculously he recovered and has since been rehomed.
Insp Hammond called the case “heartbreaking”.
“The dogs were in emaciated condition on the hard cage floor. Their open sores, long nails and matted wet ears would have definitely caused both Aero and Finn to suffer greatly,” he said.
“This case is heartbreaking. Debbie Wills ignored the needs and suffering of Aero and Finn.
“Finn died in front of Aero. Aero collapsed soon after Finn, he was so weak he was within hours of death.
“There was food within inches of them, just outside their cage, but sadly too far away.
“During these last days of their lives, Debbie Wills could see that they were losing weight and were dangerously thin but did nothing about it.
“She walked past their cage in her hallway, containing two starving dogs, never taking the opportunity to feed them adequately, take them to a vet or even asking someone for help.”
Wills, who runs a Facebook page called the Glossy Girls Boutique (at time of writing, deactivated), claimed she was struggling to cope because of having a poorly child.
She said her failures were neglectful, rather than intentionally malicious.
Sentencing: six months in prison, suspended for two years. 15-day rehabilitation activity requirement. Ordered to pay £512. Banned from keeping animals for life with the right of appeal after 10 years.
#TheList Luke Butler, born 20/09/1995, of 23 Mayfield Park South, Fishponds, Bristol BS16 3NF, girlfriend Rebecca Whitlow, born c. 2000, and her mother Claire Poore, born c. 1980, both of Speedwell Avenue, St George, Bristol BS5 8DN – left a dog in severe pain with multiple health problems
Butler, Whitlow and Poore pleaded guilty to two charges of neglect in relation to six-year-old Staffy Hugo who was in such poor physical condition he had to be put to sleep.
The dog had the worst case of fleas a vet had ever seen, was blinded in one eye and could barely stand. His ribs were very prominent and he scored just three out of nine on the vet’s body health count.
The judge, Lynne Matthews, described the actions of Butler, Whitlow and Poore as ‘staggering’.
The court heard that Butler bought the dog, but was unable to keep him at the home he shares with his mother as she has cats and other animals.
So instead, Hugo lived at his girlfriend Rebecca Whitlow’s home, even though her mum Claire Poore – a mother-of-five – was not keen.
The court heard that in late July 2019, a couple who were friends of the family offered to take Hugo out for a walk, being aware that he was rarely walked (Butler, Whitlow and Poore claimed they didn’t have time to walk him).
The friends arrived in a car to take Hugo on a trip to Brean Sands beach, on July 27, 2019, and both Poore and Whitlow were at home with the dog.
“When Claire Poore brought out Hugo, he was screaming with pain,” said Lindi Meyer, prosecuting for the RSPCA.
“He was barely walking, hopping along and dragging his back legs. His left eye was closed up completely and covered in a discharge, and his coat was clearly infested with fleas,” she added.
The friends told Poore that the dog needed urgent treatment, and when neither she nor Whitlow said they would take him to the vets, they called the PDSA charity and took him in.
Ms Meyer said the PDSA vet examined Hugo and found he had minimal body fat, and was a three out of nine on the body condition score.
“He was reluctant to walk, screaming in pain. He was ‘knuckling’, which is a sign of injury, and both hind legs were being dragged,” she said.
“Hugo’s condition was severe. He had the worst flea infestation the vet had ever seen,” she added.
The court was told that after a week, Butler and the vet agreed that Hugo had to be put down.
Butler, Whitlow and Poore agreed they were jointly responsible for the dog, and all three pleaded guilty to two counts of neglect – that they caused Hugo unnecessary suffering by failing to seek prompt veterinary treatment, and a second charge that they did not take steps to ensure the needs of an animal were met.
The court heard that all three acknowledged their failure to look after Hugo. Defending, Robyn Rowland said Hugo’s condition worsened in just one week – a statement challenged by the District Judge, who pointed to the very low body condition score as evidence that the neglect was prolonged.
“Mr Butler acknowledges that he didn’t check on the animal as much as he should,” said Mr Rowland.
“He is incredibly remorseful, as they all are. He was someone who generally cares for animals.
“This was not a case of someone buying an animal and then deliberately setting out to mistreat or neglect it,” he added.
“This has been a stark learning curve for him, as it has for all of them. Little is to be gained by sending this man, or any of them, into custody,” said Mr Rowland.
“Miss Whitlow was just 18 at the time, and was a young and naive woman. She didn’t understand the difficulty in looking after an animal – it was a lack of learning and a lack of knowledge.
“Miss Poore has five children, including a two-year-old, and having the dog in her home was perhaps not her first choice. She was tearful when I met her earlier, and she can’t quite believe the situation she finds herself in,” he added.
District Judge Lynne Matthews slammed the three for their actions – or inaction.
She told them: “It’s said you loved that dog but didn’t look after it. I say you didn’t look after the dog and the dog has lost its life,” the judge said.
“If you are not in a position to look after a dog, don’t have a dog.
“You three were not up to it. I don’t take the view you were malicious and I think you were all incompetent, too busy with other things and this poor dog suffered as a result,” she added.
“If this was a child, and a child was screaming in pain, attention would be given immediately. It was obvious this dog was in extreme pain and to turn a blind eye – this is a higher culpability and greater harm,” she said.
Sentencing the trio, District Judge Matthews gave Poore a lesser sentence, and said she was less culpable for the dog’s plight.
She slammed Whitlow for not taking Hugo to the vet, or even accompanying him when their friends said they would.
“Even when it was convenient for friends to take Hugo to the vets, you still didn’t go – that’s quite staggering,” said District Judge Matthews.
She told Butler and Whitlow they were the dog’s owners and had a duty to act.
Sentencing: Poore – 12-month community order of 100 hours of community service. Banned from keeping dogs for five years.
Butler and Whitlow – ten-week prison sentence, suspended for 12 months. Ordered to do 300 hours’ community service work. Banned from keeping any animals for five years.
#TheList Rhys Anderson, born c. 2000, of Kensington Road, Greenbank, Plymouth PL4 – launched a sadistic attack on a herring gull chick causing the baby bird to lose his leg
In July 2019 Rhys Anderson caught a seagull chick, and proceeded to throw him in the air, kick him, and then beat him with a broomstick. Anderson and an as yet unidentified accomplice were caught on CCTV laughing manically as they attacked the helpless birth.
Anderson pleaded guilty before city magistrates to hurting the herring gull chick in Plymouth on 10 July 2019.
Sentencing: 12-month community order with 60 hours of unpaid work. Completion of a Rehabilitation Activity Requirement and thinking skills course. Ordered to pay £250 compensation to Athena Wildlife & Bird of Prey Care.
#TheList Ottilie Smith, born June 1986, and James Gardner, born October 1981, both of Gibson Close, Stroud GL5 1HZ – left their dog to suffer with a severe skin condition
Ottilie Smith and partner James Gardner, who are parents, had not sought treatment for nine-year-old Mastiff Scrum’s significant skin problems.
A concerned member of the public reported the dog’s condition to the RSPCA and inspectors who attended the house ordered the couple to take Scrum for treatment – warning them about the consequences if they did not comply.
Prosecutor Kevin Withey told the crown court: “When the officers returned to the couple’s home they noticed the dog had not been treated and seized it.
“They took the dog to one of their veterinary specialists who examined the animal and said it was underweight and was suffering from alopecia and other skin ailments.
“The RSPCA funded the animal’s treatment, enabling its full recovery.”
Smith and Gardner had been convicted of animal cruelty by Cheltenham Magistrates Court at an earlier hearing in September 2019 but they lodged an appeal to the crown court against the sentence and they refused to sign over the dog so that the RSPCA could rehome him.
The court was told on Friday 6 December 2019, however, that the pair had dispensed with the services of their lawyer and had failed to turn up themselves to pursue the appeal.
The Judge, Recorder Adam Vaitilingham QC, then proceeded to hear the appeal in their absence.
He and two JP members of his bench concluded that the sentence imposed by the magistrates was appropriate and dismissed the appeal.
The court also formally assigned ownership of Scrum to the RSPCA.
Sentencing: ordered to pay £1,200 compensation and £100 each towards the appeal costs. Banned from keeping domestic animals for two years.
Additional information: Ottilie Smith also uses the surname Segadelli. She owns a cleaning business called Shamazing which is also on Facebook. James Gardner was a director of James Gardner’s Groundworks Ltd alongside Smith, but this company was dissolved in 2018.