#TheList Amy Rutherford of Coltsfoot Gardens, Gateshead NE10 – 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.