Lifetime ban for Durham man who abused his pets
A man from Durham has been given an eight-week prison sentence, suspended for two years, and disqualified from keeping animals for life after he admitted attacking a puppy and five cats.
Dominic Jackson pleaded guilty to inflicting blunt force trauma and physical violence on his pets after he was prosecuted by the RSPCA following reports he had been seen kicking cats.
Jackson was handed the suspended prison sentence and lifetime ban at a sentencing hearing at Peterlee Magistrates Court on 1 November.
The court heard how RSPCA inspectors Rowena Proctor and Heidi Cleaver had visited Jackson's home on 28 January this year to find a number of animals living in poor conditions.
In her evidence, inspector Proctor said: "The living room smelled strongly of cat urine and was unclean throughout with very dirty litter trays. Several of the cats appeared to be very underweight and one cat in particular was of major concern. I spotted her lying on the top of a tall corner and she looked to be dead.
"I was eventually able to reach up to get hold of the cat who thankfully was still alive but appeared weak and lethargic. Her name was Missy and she was the skinniest of all of the cats."
The animals - five cats called Missy, Toby, Tabby, Felix and Simba, and a crested gecko called Bumblebee - were taken straight for veterinary treatment and later seized by the police as evidence. The vet said all of the cats were suffering and four of them were too thin, although they all made good weight gains with appropriate care in the weeks that followed.
Veterinary notes seen by the RSPCA during the investigation revealed how other pets previously belonging to Jackson - a guinea pig, a ferret, three cats called Tibby, BamBam and Bambi, a black terrier type puppy called Lulu and one unknown species of animal - had also sustained injuries or died without explanation or veterinary intervention.
Tibby was found to have sustained a broken back leg after reportedly falling off the bed when alone in the bedroom with Jackson and died. A ferret called Maggie and a guinea pig were said to have been found dead in their cages by the defendant, who claimed other cats had fallen down the stairs or been found dead behind the sofa. Lulu had suffered a head trauma but has since been rehomed by the RSPCA.
The court heard how Jackson had admitted punching Toby with a closed fist after he'd eaten another cat's food, resulting in the cat having to have his eye removed. He also said he had slapped Missy and Felix, but could offer no explanation as to why other animals had unexpectedly got injured or died.
Another vet who gave evidence as part of the case, said none of the animals were reported to have sustained accidental injuries such as road traffic accidents or falling from a significant height: "In my opinion, Missy, Toby, Felix, Simba and Tibby have all been caused to suffer as a consequence of physical abuse. Suffering will have been experienced by these animals via mechanisms of fear, distress and pain for variable periods of time.
"It's highly likely that the dog made known as Lulu was also caused to suffer as a consequence of physical abuse, although the details of the circumstances surrounding the injuries to this dog are not sufficient to draw this conclusion with surety."
Most of the animals removed from the property on 28 January were signed over to the RSPCA during the course of the investigation and have since been rehomed by the charity. A deprivation order made by the court will ensure any that still remain - or have been brought since - must be handed over and will be rehomed.
Magistrates gave Jackson eight weeks custody, suspended for two years, on each of the three offences to run concurrently. He was also given a lifetime disqualified order on keeping animals and told to pay £360 in costs and a victim surcharge of £154. In mitigation, he told the court he was vulnerable and suffering from poor mental health and repeatedly claimed that someone else was responsible for coming into the house and harming the animals.
Another defendant in the case, Laura Smith, was given a 12-month conditional discharge and banned from owning and keeping animals for one year at a hearing in September, after pleading guilty to one offence contrary to the Animal Welfare Act 2006.
Speaking after the conclusion of the court hearing, inspector Proctor said: "This was an extremely upsetting and disturbing investigation as it became clear during the course of our enquiries that a large number of animals had suffered neglect and deliberate cruelty at the hands of Jackson. He had a duty of care towards his pets but instead inflicted violence and injuries."
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