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Neglected animals found suffering in unsuitable conditions

Neglected animals found suffering in unsuitable conditions

A man and woman from Carmarthenshire have been handed a suspended custody sentence after 48 dogs and a cat were found in unsuitable conditions - with 22 dogs suffering from matted coats and 17 suffering from skin disease.

Many of the dogs were kept in cages and other dogs were roaming free in the house. The dogs ranged from poodles, Japanese chins, rough collies, Pekingese, chihuahuas, shih tzus and a lot of crosses between these breeds, with one RSPCA rescuer having trouble identifying the breeds due to their matted coats. 

Beverly Gilson and John Howard both from Carmarthen appeared at Swansea Crown Court on Tuesday 21 November. They both pleaded guilty to four offences under the Animal Welfare Act

One of the offences related to the failure to ensure that the 48 dogs and one cat's needs were met. The other three offences related to unnecessary suffering where Gilson and Howard failed to provide vet care and attention for their conditions - these were:

  • Causing 22 dogs with matted coats to suffer 
  • Causing 17 dogs with skin disease to suffer 
  • Causing three dogs to suffer suffer due to poor socialisation and living in an unsuitable environment 

The couple were both handed a 15 week custody sentence suspended for nine months and ordered to carry out 15 days RAR and 50 hours of unpaid work. They were disqualified from keeping all animals for five years and ordered to pay £400 each.

In mitigation, on behalf of Gilson, the court heard that she apologised for what happened and was remorseful. It was heard that she was caring for her husband at the time who had a number of ailments before he passed away, and that "it got on top of her". She also provides care to her two sons. Gilson was the owner of the animals with Howard also living at the property.

In mitigation on behalf of Howard, the court heard that he had "let matters get out of hand" with no deliberate intention and had failed to take any steps to prevent it from happening. He was dependent on Gilson and her late husband - who was his cousin. It was also heard that they were not keeping the dogs for commercial purposes. 

In a written statement - provided to the court - from RSPCA inspector Keith Hogben, it was heard that the conditions at the property came to light following the sudden death of Gilson's husband and the RSPCA were called to attend by the police on 29 October 2022. The animals were removed on 31 October 2022 under the guidance of a vet. 

On his first visit, inspector Hogben said they were invited into the property by Gilson via the back door, "I could hear a large number of dogs inside and when entering the kitchen area found many dogs kept in cages, some stacked on top of each other, other dogs were running loose in the house. Many of the dogs had matted coats and no bedding in their cages, some dogs had water provided by rabbit bottles attached to the cages. The smell of dog faeces and urine was overpowering, the room was dark with very little natural light coming in and the dogs were barking constantly. 

"I noticed one dog in particular being kept in a small rodent cage and this dog was continually spinning in the cage, there was little room for anything else in this cage.

"Many of the dogs in these cages had faeces present that had not been cleaned out and there was faeces trodden into the floor of the kitchen area."

He went from the kitchen to the living room where several more dogs were found in cages in similar conditions as found in the kitchen. Here there was no carpet and a "strong smell of dog faeces and urine."

He found more dogs upstairs including three bearded collie type dogs and in a third bedroom there were five dogs in cages in similar conditions to downstairs. Inspector Hogben added that there were several dogs loose in this bedroom with "obvious matted coats".

"The smell of urine and faeces in this third bedroom was one of the worst I have smelt in my near-24 years with the RSPCA,

"There was no window open and when I opened the door to this bedroom I was taken aback by the smell, it made me cough and retch."

He explained to Gilson and Howard that the conditions were unacceptable and many of the dogs were in a suffering state and a vet needed to examine the dogs. He said he would return a couple of days later on 31 October 2022.

On this date inspector Hogben returned with a vet and RSPCA deputy chief inspector Gemma Cooper.

Inspector Hogben said: "Many of the dog's from upstairs on my last visit were now downstairs and there were still a large amount of dogs in cages. The smell of urine, faeces was again overpowering even though Beverly Gilson had opened windows."

The vet informed him that the animals needed to be removed. Throughout that day each dog was brought out of the property and examined by the vet. 

"Many of these dogs were in a poor condition with heavily matted coats, overgrown nails and some had eye issues, there was also an unpleasant smell coming from the dogs," said inspector Hogben.

In total 39 dogs were signed over to the RSPCA for rehoming - with Hope Rescue and The Dogs Trust attending to assist with 21 of the dogs.

Gilson and Howard decided they wanted to keep nine dogs and the cat - but would voluntarily allow the RSPCA to remove them from the property as they did not want police attendance. Sadly the cat - who was very poorly - was put to sleep on welfare grounds and two dogs were also put to sleep on veterinary advice - with permission sought from the owner.

In a written statement from DCI Cooper she said when she entered the property "the foul smell hit me and as I got even further into the property, my eyes started to water.

"I've been an RSPCA Inspector for 12 years and I can't remember the last time a property made my eyes water like this.

"The house was extremely chaotic with dog barking and running everywhere. Near to the front door was a heavily matted, white, toy poodle type dog standing on a table that Beverly Gilson was in the middle of grooming. I could see fleas crawling all over her and she was trembling. Her skin looked pink and she appeared extremely uncomfortable

"One dog was clearly in pain, screaming as the veterinary surgeon examined him and the screaming went right through me. It was awful to listen to."

The dogs that were signed over into RSPCA care and other charities have now been happily rehomed.

Following the case inspector Hogben said: "Sadly they got in over their heads with too many dogs in their home - and failed to see that many of the dogs were left suffering with a range of different issues and were being kept in unsuitable conditions.

"Thankfully these dogs have now been able to have a second chance of happiness in their new homes following veterinary care and attention. We'd like to thank the Dyfed Powys Police and also The Dogs Trust and Hope Rescue for taking 21 dogs for rehoming."

One dog was returned to his owner after he had been in the care of Gilson, with the others (17) in RSPCA care and were rehomed. Seven dogs - which were signed over to the RSPCA a week before the hearing -  will now be rehomed.

To help the RSPCA continue rescuing, rehabilitating, releasing and rehoming animals in desperate need of care please donate online or call our donation line on 0300 123 8181.