Over 175 animals found dead
A woman was disqualified from keeping animals for life after she admitted to causing unnecessary suffering and failing to meet the needs of a large number of animals in her care.
Over 175 animals including dogs, pigs, goats, rabbits, rhea, poultry and a cat was found dead at her property. A further 25 animals were alive but living in poor or dirty conditions amongst the remains of other dead animals.
The situation these animals were found in was discovered after some pigs had escaped from the six-acre property. A police officer who was investigating the situation attended the premises and contacted us immediately after finding dead and thin dogs in the woman's barn.
Our inspector went to the premises and saw what a disgusting place it was. There was rubbish all over the floor including:
- animal faeces
- food items
- empty cans
- pieces of wood
- and other various junk.
Makeshift pens not suitable for animals
At the bottom of the barn were some makeshift dog pens, made out of wood and wire, containing living and dead dogs.
In the first pen there was a small white and black poodle barking, covered in faeces. The pen was disgusting inside, with faeces and straw on the ground as well as an upturned water bowl.
The next pen was as dirty as the first and had a dead black and white collie dog inside, it was obvious the dog had been dead a while.
The next pens had a black and white collie in each, who were both quiet and nervous. Their pen had concrete flooring with some straw at the back. There was no food or water available to them.
The next pen had two black and white collie type puppies inside, who were only a few months old. There was also a dead black poodle in their with them. It was obvious this dog had been dead for a while.
As the inspector looked around she saw cages and pens containing poultry. The place was a such a mess it appeared ransacked, with no sounds other than barking dogs.
The inspector recalled:
Everything was dead, you couldn't tell what the animals were, as some were just pile of feathers or bones or partially intact remains. Most were in such a state of decomposition it was impossible to establish how they had died.
There were dead animals everywhere. There was a feeling by all witnesses involved of overwhelm following the sights that they saw that day, and in the following days after.
Caged chickens stacked in an office
An office within the barn had cages stacked on top of each other containing poultry. All of these birds were dead apart from a black and white chicken, who was found in a small wooden box.
The chicken was standing on feathers and the bones of other dead chickens, which may have been the animals only option for food. There was no other food or water available. There were also other dead chickens found in a bucket and a dead chicken on a chair.
The inspector said it was impossible to count how many had died - there were just too many.
Filthy garden found with even more animals
At the back of the main house were two collie dogs in a walled-off area, one male and one female. The male dog had large clumps of fur hanging from him, was in very poor bodily condition and extremely underweight. The female collie was also underweight with all her bones very easy to feel. She also appeared to have recently had puppies.
A constant drip from a pipe coming from the wall had caused a slimy wet puddle on the concrete area where the collies were running in - this wet slimy area was covered in trodden in dog excrement.
Our inspector could hear a small squeaking sound coming from the back garden. She opened the gate and as she walked into the yard, she spotted a wooden oblong kennel-type box which was closed. She lifted the lid and inside were six black and white puppies huddled up together on a thin nest of straw. They looked only a few days old and they all had their eyes closed.
The puppies only had a half-filled bucket of dirty water available to them. It was surprising the puppies were all alive given the body condition of their mother and the living conditions.
Lastly, in the garden, there was also a white domestic goose who didn't appear to have any food, water or shelter available anywhere nearby.
A dead pig also found in wooden shed
A dead pig was hidden in a wooden shed, partially covered with paper and plastic feed bags - his head in a bucket of rat poison.
On discovering what the pig had eaten, the owner had shut and locked the door, leaving him to die. It looked like the woman had actually nailed the door shut and placed a breeze block at the bottom of it to prevent the pig from escaping.
Further down the paddocks was a live female pig in a sty and a brown and white female goat in a field nearby. In this field were more animal bones.
Dead geese, goats in paddocks and a dead tortoiseshell cat confined to a cage in the house were also discovered.
The woman had food but hadn't been feeding the animals
A vet arrived and looked around the entire site whilst food and water were given to the animals.
Trays of dog and cat food were stacked up all over the farm - around 300-400 cans - yet the surviving animals were in poor body condition. Heartbreakingly, crates of food were just steps away from the starving dogs.
The vet signed a certificate recommending that the surviving animals be removed immediately. They were taken to a private veterinary practice for examination and all of the dogs were prescribed medications. The vet confirmed that the needs of all the animals were not met.
Over 175 dead animals were removed by a licenced fallen stockman and the woman signed over the remaining eight pigs.
Four weeks later more animals were found
Just four weeks later during an unannounced visit, more animals were found in a similar situation.
10 chickens were packed into plastic containers with the lids weighted down. They were sticking their heads out of the holes where the handles in the crates were. There was a small amount of straw in the bottom of the crates, but it was very soiled and wet.
The chickens had no food or water whatsoever. 55 eggs that the woman had allowed to be incubated had hatched and the chicks were living in cardboard boxes and a plastic tub. For some chicks there was dirty water was available, but in some of the other boxes there was none at all.
There was food available, but it was either trampled in with faeces on the floor or in polystyrene egg boxes.
Chicks found living in a fire risk area
Lights were clipped on to cardboard boxes, which was not only a fire risk, but a burn risk too as the chicks were close to the bulb. One of the boxes had the heating element of an incubator across the top of it.
The inspector started to explain to the woman about the fire risk, the lack of water available to the animals and the dirty conditions, but the woman became agitated and walked out of the room, shouting 'just take them!'.
The vet was shocked as the barn had perfect facilities available to use, yet the chickens were stuffed into dirty crates, without any adequate provisions. He confirmed they were suffering due to the conditions they were living in and police took them into possession.
Dead rabbits and guinea pigs were were also found in cages inside polytunnels.
No reason for her actions
The woman was interviewed at a police station where she accepted that she hadn't met the needs of the animals in her care. She admitted that the dead dogs could have died from starvation and dehydration, and believed that the chickens in the barn died of exposure. She admitted to hiding the additional chickens at the time of our first visit.
She said that when an animal dies it stops her worrying about them. She had never used a licenced fallen stock person to dispose of the dead animals. She was oblivious to any of the responsibilities expected of her legally and had no regard to the risk of disease or to the health and welfare of the staff who would be working at her premises.
The woman, who was clearly a risk to animals as she was prepared to hide animals from us, was summoned to court.
She pleaded guilty to five offences contrary to the Animal Welfare Act 2006 - relating to a total of nine dogs, a pig, ten chickens and 55 chicks.
Magistrates disqualified her from keeping all animals for life. She was also ordered to undertake a 30-day rehabilitation requirement and to pay £250 costs.
After the hearing our inspector said:
Several collie type dogs were in a shocking state in filthy pens in one of the buildings. Two of the dogs were dead, one in a pen with two other dogs.
I want to thank everyone who has been involved in this case - from the police officer who raised the alarm, to those who have rehabilitated and rehomed the surviving animals. Otherwise the plight of these animals may not have come to light.