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Mother and son who kept 65 pets in their home found guilty of cruelty

A mother and son packed their tiny home with a huge collection of unwanted pets they acquired for free from the internet — but then failed to look after them.

Pauline Fearon, a community association chairman, and her son Gareth Henderson crammed 65 animals into their semi-detached house afterby surfing websites for adverts placed by owners who wanted to give up their animals.

But they were unable to cope with their giant collection and left many of the animals, which included dogs, guinea pigs, rabbits, snakes, cockatiels and terrapins, to rot.

RSPCA officials raided the house after a tip off and found 34 of the animals in poor health and close to death.

The list of the animals they had included: a soft bellied snapping turtle; two canaries; 12 finches and a budgie; six guinea pigs; two rabbits; two degus; three turtles; two terrapins; a plated lizard and a beaked baby dragon.

Three dogs were taken away for veterinary care but two of them, a labrador called Woody and a Chihuahua, Tufty, were so starved that they could barely stand and had to be put down.

Fearon, 45, who is confined to a wheelchair and Henderson, 22, both of Spa Crescent, Little Hulton, Salford, Greater Manchester, were banned from keeping animals for life after pleading guilty to causing unnecessary suffering.

Both were given 12-month community orders requiring them to carry out 80 hours of unpaid work each. They were also ordered to pay L400 costs.

Salford magistrates were told the RSCPA officials initially searched the pair’s home in September last year and found Woody and Tufty “extremely underweight and unable to stand”. Fearon claimed she was saving up to have them put to sleep but she agreed to let the RSPCA remove the dogs to obtain treatment.

The following month officers returned to discover the pair had amassed a huge collection of animals.

Prosecutor Anna McDonald said: “There were some 20 birds in cramped cages, a turtle in a cage with no UV light, another dog, a bull snake, a rat snake, guinea pigs, a cat, a kitten, two rabbits in a hutch which was very small and dirty.

“The inspector contacted police for assistance and they also requested the attendance of a vet. The vet attended and inspected the animals. The RSPCA removed 68 animals including snakes, bearded dragon, birds and reptiles.

“The three dogs that were removed in the first visitwere examined and they were all emaciated and had skin conditions which resulted in fur loss.

“The vet had to put two dogs down and the third dog on antibiotics. All three dogs were not looked after and this led to starvation over a period of months.”

Ms McDonald added: “Both defendants failed to provide adequate care. The owners could simply not cope with the amount of animals they had in their premises. Their needs were not being met due to the large amount of animals being kept in cramped conditions.

“Pauline Fearon said she had far too many animals in her possession which she regretted. She said she got most of them off the internet from people who didn’t want them.”

The reptiles were examined by a vet who said they had been kept in ”very poor conditions’ with no access to clean water or food.

The court heard that the total loss to the RSPCA including legal fees and vetinary care came to L15,727.

In mitigation for Fearon, defence lawyer Mr Tim Andrew said:
claimed two other occupants at the house were also getting animals from the internet.
“What Pauline Fearon did was try to do her best,” he said. ”The vets conclusion was the owners could simply not cope and didn't intentionally want to cause suffering.
“They were overwhelmed by the thought of free animals on the internet. They would get these animals from websites featuring animals that had been abandoned and needing rehoming, but Miss Fearon was unable to care for them.””She has been the victim of her own desire to look after animals.She could not afford to take them to the vets. She was trying to treat the dogs with a form of cream she got from the chemist.
“The bottom line is that they had too many animals in a small space and they did not have sufficient funds to do what was required.
“She is capable of work. She is a volunteer on the estate where she lives and she is acting chair person for that association.”

But after the case Insp Melissa Furey of the RSPCA said: ”What these two people did was inexcusable.
“To mistreat the animals in this way and to not even attempt to rectify the problem after an RSPCA warning is dreadful. These animals were living in awful conditions.”

From The Times, Robin Stacey, November 14, 2009,

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