Former Crufts winner neglected 30 dogs, cats and parrots in 'filthy crates'

An 'experienced' trainer and breeder of dogs who won prizes at Crufts neglected 30 dogs, two cats and two parrots and housed the animals in crates 'in varying states of filth and poor health', a court heard.

Tuesday, 20th June 2017, 6:29 pm
Updated Wednesday, 21st June 2017, 7:37 am
Three of the dogs had to be put to sleep.

Margaret Greaves, aged 64, of Rookery Lane, Sutton-in-Ashfield, changed her plea at Mansfield Magistrates Court today (Tuesday) to guilty, at the start of a three-day trial, after denying ten charges of animal cruelty, in October last year.

RSPCA officers conducted a search of her farm, on April 6, last year, after reports that dogs were being kept in crates, said prosecutor Paul Wright.

A transit van on the drive contained seven dogs, six in crates and one in the front, which were in “varying states of filth and poor health”, said Mr Wright.

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The animals were kept in cages.

At 2pm police forced open an outhouse, where ten dogs, covered in faeces, were found in ten crates, stacked on top of each other.

RSPCA Inspector Laura Kirkham described a “stench which made her throat burn”, with faeces and urine on the floor. None of the dogs had any water, or water bowls.

Later, in the lounge they found five dogs, one of whom had six puppies, in crates, as well as two African parrots in a “good sized cage”, which had been split into two halves, and they were crammed into one half. There were “massive amounts” of faeces and empty husks on the cage floor, but little food and no access to water.

“What’s concerning about their environment is that it was very dark, the curtains were closed,” said Mr Wright. “There were serious concerns about their environment.”

She was given a suspended sentence.

Greaves then arrived at the farm in a Vauxhall combo van, which contained more dogs in a poor state.

Two dogs were found in the kitchen, one of whom, a Jack Russell called Dumper, had a serious eye problems, and Greaves admitted to not seeking veterinary treatment for him.

She also admitted causing unnecessary suffering to a Cocker Spaniel, called Bobby, by failing to provide proper car for ear and dental disease, and by failing to provide a proper environment for him, between February 6, and April 6, 2016.

He was found in the outhouse in a “disgraceful state”, with a coat that was “wet with urine”. Due to his age and poor health, Bobby was put down. Ecoli and bacteria were found in his ears.

The animals were kept in cages.

Between March 23, and April 6, 2016, she caused unnecessary suffering to a Labrador called Shadow, by failing to provide necessary care and attention for a skin disease.

Shadow was found staggering and off-balance, and “crawling with lice”, and was judged to have been suffering unnecessarily because of irritation caused by the skin problem. Shadow was also put to sleep.

Greaves also admitted between March 10, and April 6, 2016, to failing to provide care for the conjunctivitis of a Collie cross, called Billy.

He was found in such a poor condition that vet Christine Jamieson cried when she saw him, the court heard.

She was given a suspended sentence.

Greaves, who has no previous convictions, admitted six of the ten original charges, including failing to ensure that 30 dogs, two cats and two African grey parrots for which she was responsible had enough fresh drinking water, and that 28 dogs and two parrots didn’t have a suitable environment or their needs met so they were able to survive, on or before April 6, 2016.

The court heard Greaves was captain of the Flyball team Mansfield Marnicks, who won first and second place at Crufts in March 2014.

The sport sees teams of dogs race against each over a line of hurdles to a box that releases a tennis ball to be caught by the dog. The animal then races back to its handlers while carrying the ball.

Sean Smith, mitigating, said Greaves had become worried about the presence of someone living nearby and planned to leave the “isolated” premises, where she had lived for 13 years, and had suffered poor health.

She tried to rehouse the dogs, selling off kennels and equipment, and the crates were a “short term measure”.

Mr Smith said Greaves had been entrusted to “look after animals who would have been put down” by Bolsover District Council.

One of them, “who had been a weekend away from being destroyed”, was entered for Crufts in January 2016.

“She does have skills and knowledge, but she could no longer cope,” said Mr Smith.”Cirumstances got on top of her.”

None of the dogs were “remarkably underweight” or dehydrated, a vet ruled, and some of them had been dumped at the side of the road and were not healthy in the first place.

Probation officer Isobel Peach said Greaves had been ill before the RSPCA visit.

“She said she had let herself and the animals down. She showed remorse,” she said.

District judge Tim Spruce said: “You knew the poor environment those animals came from and yet you continued to house them in that environment.

“Three of the dogs were so badly cared for there was not alternative but to put them to sleep.

“There was a prolonged period of neglect. It is an aggravating factor that you are an experienced keeper and trainer of dogs.”

Greaves was banned from keeping dogs for life. She was disqualified from keeping other animals for three years.

The dogs that are still in her care will be removed.

She was given 12 weeks in prison, suspended for 12 months.

She was ordered to pay £500 towards costs and a victim surcharge of £115.