A WIGAN woman who left 14 pets in the care of a man who had been banned from keeping animals has been convicted of four animal welfare offences.
Deborah Eaves, 47, argued that her filthy back garden was a suitable environment for her nine dogs and five cats, while she went on a two-week holiday.
But justices at Wigan Magistrates’ Court ruled that her decision to leave her pets in the care of Eric Smith – who had previously received a five-year ban from keeping animals – made her equally culpable for their plight.
In a private prosecution brought by the RSPCA, animal welfare officers told how they found a German shepherd roaming free in the back garden of Eaves’ home, six dogs locked in a cramped pen and another dog, a tiny newborn puppy, confined to the kitchen.
Two cats and three kittens were also discovered in a search of the cluttered outdoor shed. Two of the kittens were in such poor condition that they had to be put down.
RSPCA officer Anne-Marie Atherton was called to Eaves’ home on Smithwood Avenue, Hindley, on September 22 last year, and found a large pile of faeces stacked up against the back gate.
She also told how hazards, such as a sharp section of metal fencing, were just “strewn around” the muddy yard.
Fellow RSPCA inspector Louise Showering then followed up the visit two days later, but noticed that her colleague had wedged inside the hinges of the front door and they were still in place – indicating that nobody had visited for at least 48 hours.
Smith, 40, then turned up while she was there and let her in.
Insp Showering said the kitchen floor was “covered in urine and faeces” and that there was no food or water available for the spaniel and her newborn puppy. All 14 animals were seized on the spot and placed into boarding accommodation.
One of the dogs kept in the pen – a cross-breed poodle named Treacle – was deemed worryingly underweight by veterinary surgeon Sean Taylor and, after being given a nutritionally balanced diet, subsequently put on more than 1.2kg in weight in just 17 days.
In her defence, Eaves told the court she had left three large food sacks in the house before setting off on holiday on September 15.
She said she had asked Smith, who was banned from keeping animals from 2005-2010, to feed each dog individually and let them out at least twice a day.
Eaves also claimed that she had planned to take the underweight poodle to the vet on her return home.
She told the court: “When I left, the house was clean and the garden was in the process of being done up. My animals love to play in the mud and are normally well fed. I’m devastated at what’s happened – I’m an animal lover and these animals are like my family.
“I put my trust in him (Smith) and realise now that I made a terrible error.”
Despite her not guilty pleas, magistrates found Eaves guilty of failing to provide a clean environment for the cats and three of the dogs and failing to ensure six of the pets were safe from hazards.
She was also convicted of not providing adequate water for the six dogs in the pen, and for not providing adequate nutrition to the underweight poodle.
Smith, of York Road, Hindley, pleaded guilty to four identical charges – although relating only to the care of the dogs – before his case went to trial, citing a bad back as his excuse for failing to care for the animals.
Eaves and Smith are both set to be sentenced on Monday (February 27), once pre-sentence reports have been compiled.