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Four dogs left living in squalor

Four dogs left living in squalor

A woman left her dogs with no food or water in a house in South Yorkshire where the 'horrendous' smell was described as 'almost overpowering.'

The dogs - two Labradors, a Rottweiler and a Dachshund - were living amongst broken glass, green mouldy faeces, rubbish and drug paraphernalia, with hundreds of empty bottles of alcohol found in the garden.   

The animals were rescued from a property in, Rotherham, by the RSPCA and the police after their owner, Kelly Hedger, had repeatedly ignored warnings to improve conditions and provide them with a safe and clean environment. 

Buster the Rottweiler and Alfie, one of the Labradors, were both given a body condition score of 1/9 by a vet and described as emaciated. Two horses, which were also Hedger's responsibility, had also been left unattended in a field with no fresh food or water for six days.

At a sentencing hearing at Sheffield Magistrates Court on 10 June, Hedger was banned from keeping animals for 12 months and sentenced to an 18-month community order with 40 RAR days after she was prosecuted by the RSPCA for neglecting the animals. She had denied four animal welfare offences but was found guilty at a trial in her absence on 21 September last year. 

Buddy and Alfie can now finally be rehomed by the RSPCA after the district judge imposed a deprivation order. They have spent over three and a half years being looked after by the charity's Doncaster, Rotherham and District Branch after Hedger refused to sign them over.

The court heard how police, accompanied by RSPCA Inspector Vanessa Reid, carried out a warrant at the property on 9 November 2021 which resulted in the four dogs being removed from the premises because of concerns for their welfare. 

The charity's officers had made multiple visits in the proceeding months and issued Hedger with improvement notices to clean up both the inside and outside of the property, which were filthy and hazardous for the dogs. 

Buster was primarily kept outside in hazardous conditions amongst household debris, hundreds of empty bottles of alcohol and shards of glass which had shattered from a smashed window hanging off the back door. 

In written evidence to the court Inspector Reid described conditions on the day of the warrant: "As you entered the kitchen there was a very strong smell of ammonia and faeces which hit you instantly. There were several empty bowls on the floor and lots of rubbish and faeces.

"As the dogs were secure in this room, I continued past and up the stairs to check the conditions upstairs. There were four bedrooms, all of which were covered in belongings, rubbish and faeces. There were old faeces which had turned green and mouldy, alongside more fresh ones, so it was clear the dogs had been living like this for some time. 

"At the entrance to the bathroom were multiple piles of faeces which contained lots of what appeared to be seeds, this suggested the dogs had possibly been eating bird food. There were no bowls of water present in any of the rooms. 

"As we untied the doors to the living room the horrendous smell became even stronger, almost overpowering. My eyes began to water and my nose was burning, the smell was so putrid."

The only liquid in the house was a half-full mop bucket in the kitchen containing filthy brown water and there was no pet food or packaging in the dustbins. Drug paraphernalia was found lying around the house which also presented a health risk to the animals, the court heard.

The dogs were seized by the police and taken by the RSPCA for immediate veterinary care. Dinky the dachshund was found to have an untreated inguinal hernia, while Alfie had been left with a large untreated mass on his chest and Buddy had multiple scars from fighting which looked to have happened on more than one occasion.

A vet who examined them described their living conditions as "horrendous," and said no animal should be in an environment with mouldy faeces and broken glass. Her written statement said: "All four dogs were suffering from starvation and poor nutrition - this is something the owner would have known would be a consequence of not feeding them or providing them with fresh water. To continue the way they are kept is unacceptable".

The RSPCA was also told that Hedger kept two horses in a field in Laughton en le Morthen. When the charity visited the location they found a dark bay gelding and a dun-coloured Shetland-type pony with little grazing, buckets of dirty water and no supplementary hay, food or shelter. Both horses were monitored by the RSPCA for six days but it became clear that Hedger had not returned at all during that time and they were subsequently seized by the police and placed into the care of the charity.

Numerous attempts were made to interview Hedger between November 2022 and January 2023 but she failed to attend scheduled appointments. Sentencing her, District Judge Spruce said the dogs were in 'very poor condition over a period of time as a result of intermittent starvation' but noted her 'physical and mental health concerns' and said she needed input from probation services and not a custodial sentence.

In mitigation, Hedger said other people had taken over her property at the time of the offences and Buster belonged to them.

Buster and Dinky were signed over to the RSPCA during the investigation although Hedger denied she owned the dachshund so the RSPCA were able to rehome him once he had been rehabilitated. Sadly Buster was unable to be rehabilitated after dedicated care and a sad decision was made to put him to sleep.

Following the sentencing hearing and the deprivation order, Buddy has now found a loving new home, but Alfie is still looking. The horses have been relinquished into the RSPCA's care and they will also be found new homes.

Speaking after sentencing Inspector Reid said: "I'm pleased that after three and a half years, this long case has finally concluded. It's ended a long period of uncertainty for Buddy and Alfie in particular, whom we have legally been unable to rehome until now. 

"The dogs had been starved and were living in squalor without food or water, yet Hedger denied repeated warnings to improve their situation. The horses were also not receiving anywhere near the appropriate level of care and attention, so we're pleased these animals also now have the chance of leading much happier lives."