Moving and distressing real-life scenes of animals kept in squalid, dangerous and unsuitable conditions have been captured on a new film, to be previewed today at a London cinema by the RPSCA.
But these emotive scenes – made even more shocking because they are perfectly legal – will remain forever etched in the memories of the starring celebrities who have helped the charity highlight the need for changes to our animal welfare legislation.
The footage, designed to inform the public about current animal welfare law and the need for the proposed changes to it, includes:
- Paranormalist/author Uri Geller confronting the owner of a horse kept in the back garden of her semi-detached house;
- Presenter Gail Porter comforting eight cats which are kept in cramped carrying cases all day long and left in their own excrement.
- Actress Miranda Richardson discovers birds galore flying free in a dingy, filthy sitting room- come aviary; and
- TV Vet Emma Milne distraught at finding the RSPCA powerless to free dogs tethered on chains and left amid mud and perilous debris for 24 hours a day.
In a groundbreaking move, the RSPCA will distribute the footage to more than half a million people via its website and in a weekend national newspaper.
The DVD, narrated by Shauna Lowry, provides a vivid and accurate illustration of why the Society is campaigning for the Animal Welfare Bill to become law.
A new report is also being launched by the charity today, providing the ’25 Reasons For A New Animal Welfare Law’, and contrasting existing legislation with the proposals contained in the Animal Welfare Bill.
The new welfare offence the Bill proposes would help animals like those in the film before it’s too late, along with the thousands of other pets that are at risk throughout the country.
Indeed, in 2003 the RSPCA issued 4,070 written warnings to owners, explaining an offence would be committed if their animals’ care was not improved. Under current legislation, however, that advice is not backed up by the threat of legal proceedings and all too often ignored.
“The Society has long been campaigning for the modernisation of our animal welfare laws, and was delighted that the Animal Welfare Bill was highlighted last week in the Queen’s Speech, which commits the government to providing parliamentary time to deliberate the Bill,” said Jackie Ballard, RSPCA Director General.
“The RSPCA and a huge number of supporters are now urging MPs and Lords to ensure that the Animal Welfare Bill becomes enacted at the earliest opportunity – and certainly before a general election is called.”
A total of 84,601 members of the public have already signed a petition to the Prime Minister in support of the RSPCA’s call for a ‘duty of care’, which will legally oblige pet owners to act responsibly. Additionally, 400 supporters have written personalised letters to Tony Blair asking him to allow the Animal Welfare Bill to pass through parliament in the coming year.
Furthermore, 43 celebrities have added their voice to the cause by supplying hand and paw prints of their own pets, adding to almost 4,000 the number of prints provided by the general public in support of the RSPCA Animal Welfare Bill campaign.
Shauna Lowry, Emma Milne and Gail Porter will today join the RSPCA at a gathering of parliamentarians, police, local authority representatives and participants from other animal-related organisations for a preview of the film they helped make, launch the RSPCA report, and to debate the content of the Animal Welfare Bill.
Animal Welfare Bill Campaign Case Studies
The following cases were prosecuted by the RSPCA after owners had allowed their pets to suffer by neglecting their basic needs and mistreating them. The Animal Welfare Bill, when law, will require owners to take reasonable steps to ensure their animals’ welfare and enable the RSPCA and other agencies intervene at an earlier stage if animals are at risk.
23 Dogs Found in Two Bedroom House
RSPCA inspector Simon Davies
Alessia Duggan of South Grove, Heathfield Road, Handsworth, Birmingham was banned from owning dogs for ten years by Birmingham Magistrates in November 2004, after refusing help or guidance from the RSPCA after numerous visits.
RSPCA inspectors found 23 dogs living in the downstairs rooms of Mrs Duggan’s two-bedroom property in April 2004. Most of the dogs were black Labrador-cross breeds and their bodily condition varied from very poor to emaciated. The room in which the dogs lived had one window, which had been covered. The room contained two plastic dog beds and the wooden frame of two settees, with no upholstery. The dogs were all removed from the property and taken to RSPCA Birmingham Animal Home.
Mrs Duggan pleaded guilty to causing unnecessary suffering to the dogs. Passing sentence the magistrate said:
“The condition of these dogs and the condition in which they were kept was appalling.”
Mrs Duggan was also sentenced to a 12-month conditional discharge and all 23 dogs were confiscated.
RSPCA inspector Simon Davies said:
“This was the worst state I have ever seen so many dogs in. It was a very difficult case because all our offers of assistance were refused. Mrs Duggan also refused to sign a form to enable us to re-home the dogs before the sentence, so they have remained in kennels for eight months. I am delighted that now we can find new homes for them.”
Four Dogs Constantly Tied Up In Hallway
Bognor Regis, West Sussex
RSPCA inspector Kirsty Hampton
A dog owner who kept his two rottwieler crossbreeds and two lurchers tied up in the hallway of his house had been asked on a number of occasions to improve their welfare.
Alfred Wright, 70, of Meadow Way, Bognor Regis, had his dogs tied together on a three-foot rope attached to a radiator in his hallway. The dogs had nothing to lie on and the floor was littered with dog faeces.
RSPCA inspector Kirsty Hampton had gone to his house on several occasions to warn him to make changes to the dogs’ living conditions but the advice was ignored.
Eventually inspector Hampton believed that the dogs were suffering and called a vet who agreed that the conditions they were being kept in was causing them to suffer.
Wright appeared before Chichester Magistrates in March 2004 and pleaded not guilty to causing unnecessary suffering. He was found guilty and banned for life from keeping dogs and ordered to pay £500 in compensation.
Inspector Hampton said:
“It was very frustrating having to make repeated visits to Mr Wright’s property. We offered advice that was ignored on a number of occasions and we were not able to help the dogs as quickly as we would have liked. However we are pleased that all of the dogs have now been rehomed.”
Man Caught Kicking Dog on CCTV
RSPCA inspector Doug Davidson
Members of the public spotted a man beating, kicking and biting his dog in Oxford city centre in March 2004.
James Hendry, 39, previously of Wood Farm, Oxford was seen attacking his dog, Bluey, an 18-month-old collie cross, by various members of the public and three RSPCA officers.
For the first time in the East, police CCTV footage, which filmed some of the incident, was used in the case to prove the attacks.
Hendry pleaded guilty to ill treating the dog at Oxford City Magistrates Court in October 2004 and was disqualified from keeping dogs for two years, fined £150, and ordered to pay £100 towards costs.
RSPCA inspector Davidson had visitied Hendry’s house back in December 2003 after complaints from the public and cautioned him, saying that it was inappropriate to control the dog by kicking and that there shouldn’t be a repeat of this behaviour. Hendry was uncooperative and refused to listen, and calls kept coming in.
Inspector Davidson said:
“We had hoped for a longer ban to prevent Hendry from harming any more animals. Hopefully improved animal welfare legislation will lead to stiffer penalties where suffering occurs. However, it was a happy ending for Bluey who has now the opportunity of a better life in a new home.”
Twenty-Nine Cats Discovered in Faeces-Encrusted Property
RSPCA inspector Sue Craig
When RSPCA inspector Sue Craig finally entered Michael O’Malley’s home after more than a month of trying, the stench and dirt was so appalling she had to wear a protective face mask.
Twenty-nine cats were living in O’Malley’s previous address in Salters Road, Newcastle. The floor was caked in faeces, while battered furniture, rubbish, and dirty clothes and rags filled the rooms. Twenty-one of the cats were in such poor condition, they had to be put to sleep to end their suffering.
Inspector Craig gained entry to the property in March 2004, but had attempted to get into the house on at least four occasions previously. The windows of the building were so dirty, she couldn’t see inside to properly assess the condition of the cats. Requests for entry by the RSPCA went ignored until matters came to a head in March.
In September, O’Malley admitted 14 charges of causing unnecessary suffering to animals and was banned from keeping all animals for life when he appeared before Gosforth Magistrates Court in September 2004. He was fined £50 and ordered to pay £150 costs.
Inspector Craig said:
“I was horrified at the conditions I found inside that property and the situation was made worse by the fact I had concerns for weeks before I could get inside. Through no fault of the RSPCA, for the 21 cats which had to be put to sleep, I was too late.”
Farmer Failed To Remedy Neglect Of Sheep
RSPCA inspector John Pollock
A Somerset man who failed to follow the welfare advice of the RSPCA given during numerous visits to his land was found guilty of causing unnecessary suffering to sheep.
Richard Wetherall Hickman, 50, of Sparkford, near Yeovil. Somerset, was found guilty of four offences of neglecting his sheep, when he appeared before Yeovil Magistrates in December 2003.
The court heard that Hickman had been visited by the RSPCA three times during January 2003, when he received welfare advice on caring for and treating his sheep. He was also told to remove dead stock.
But when RSPCA inspectors David Steele and John Pollock visited the property again at the end of January 2003 they discovered three collapsed and emaciated ewes in need of veterinary attention and numerous dead animals.
In his defence, Hickman argued that he had been tending to his animals on a regular basis and did care for them.
Hickman was found guilty of neglect under the Protection of Animals Act 1911 as well as falling foul of offences under the Welfare of Farmed Animals (Welfare) Regulations 2000.
He was sentenced to a two-year conditional discharge and ordered to pay court costs of £500. No disqualification order was imposed.
RSPCA inspector John Pollock, who took the case to court, said:
“It is always disappointing to have to take a case to court, as under current legislation, it means an animal has suffered.
“In the past, we offered Mr Hickman detailed help and advice with caring for his animals and advised him to cut the numbers down so they were easier to mange, but he continually failed to provide them with the basic care and attention they needed, or to improve the management of his stock.
Dog Left To Suffer Despite Repeated Warnings
RSPCA inspector Fletcher
A Couple from Swandlicote who had failed to act on RSPCA advice and provide veterinary care for their German shepherd were banned from keeping dogs for five years by Derby Magistrates Court in September 2004.
Heather and Paul Orton of Netherseal, Swandlincote pleaded guilty to neglect and failure to provide veterinary treatment for their German shepherd. In addition to the disqualification order, they were ordered to pay £630 costs and given a two-year conditional discharge sentence.
From April 2003, RSPCA inspectors visited the home of Mr and Mrs Orton on more than seven occasions offering advice on how to alleviate their pet dog’s skin condition. Inka had a flea problem, which needed routine veterinary treatment, however, the Ortons failed to take their dog to the vet resulting in the condition deteriorating. RSPCA inspector Jason Fletcher also issued the Ortons with a £50 branch voucher while advising that the Society would be able to offer further financial assistance for the dog’s treatment.
Inspector Fletcher said:
“This case clearly illustrates that the current animal welfare laws are letting animals down. We offered advice, which was constantly ignored, meaning we had to watch this animal suffer before the law enabled us to act.
“With the new Animal Welfare Bill we will be able to take action sooner meaning that a significant amount of animal suffering could be prevented. A ‘duty of care’ would mean that all animal owners would have a legal responsibility to ensure their animals are properly cared for and in this case protected from illness and distress.”
Pony Found Collapsed After Two Years Of Advice
RSPCA inspector John Knight
The owners of three neglected ponies ignored advice from RSPCA inspectors for two and a half years before legal action could be taken. By this point one of the ponies had collapsed and had to be put to sleep to end its suffering.
Husband and wife George and Sandra Loveridge and retired farmer John Smith failed to act on frequent advice given by RSPCA inspector John Knight. He had warned them that grazing was inadequate, one of the mares and her foal were at risk of becoming underweight, and that the field was overrun with toxic ragwort which must be removed.
After failing to act on the advice given, the animals deteriorated to the point that Inspector Knight was able to take legal action. The vet he asked to examine the collapsed chestnut mare said that she was suffering from lice infestation in her matted tail and mane, was dehydrated, and suffering from a severe heart murmur. He concluded her chances of making a recovery were hopeless and she had to be put to sleep. Marks in the ground where she had been discovered indicated that she had been dragging herself along the ground due to her inability to get up. The post mortem later showed muscle damage consistent with dragging her body.
A grey mare with a suckling foal was emaciated, and blood tests revealed she was suffering from anaemia. Her hooves were overgrown and her tail and mane were infested with lice. While the foal was in normal bodily condition, it was removed along with its mother to another location.
The vet confirmed that the two mares had been subjected to unnecessary suffering due to emaciation that was likely to have taken place over a period of two months.
Sandra Loverage, of Ely, Cambridgeshire admitted responsibility for the ponies. She claimed she knew the chestnut horse was a bit thin but it was like that when she got it and thought it would pick up. She admitted she had no experience in looking after horses. She pleaded not guilty to two charges of causing unnecessary suffering.
George Loverage, also from Ely, admitted responsibility for the animals and claimed that the chestnut mare “drops off and picks up again” but he was going to leave her for a month to see if she improved.
Retired farmer and scrap metal dealer John Smith, from Little Downham, Ely, admitted joint responsibility for the ponies. He claimed there was nothing wrong with the ponies and that they were all well looked after.
John Smith and Mr and Mrs Loveridge were all found guilty of causing unnecessary suffering to two ponies at Ely Magistrates Court in December 2003. They were each ordered to pay £400 costs and banned from keeping equines for life.