Animal ban for vet’s assistant after pets found in ‘appalling’ conditions at Leeds surgery

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A vet’s assistant has been banned from keeping animals after her own pets were found living in filthy “dungeon” conditions at her Leeds surgery.

Rochelle McEwan was found guilty of animal cruelty last month after around 30 dogs and cats were found in squalor at Armley Vets, on Town Street, in Armley.

Rochelle McEwan arrives at Leeds Magistrates Court. Picture: Ross Parry Agency

Rochelle McEwan arrives at Leeds Magistrates Court. Picture: Ross Parry Agency

She was due to be sentenced alongside vet Gary Samuel – her ex-boyfriend – who was convicted of the same offences.

But McEwan appeared alone at Leeds Magistrates’ Court today after Samuel, 49, was given leave not to attend because he was in the United States taking exams.

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During the trial the court had heard police discovered the animals on February 24 last year after being called to investigate an alleged fight between McEwan and Samuel.

30 dogs and cats were found living in squalid conditions

30 dogs and cats were found living in squalid conditions

Most of the dogs – mainly husky-types – were found in the faeces-covered basement, accessed by a trap door that had been covered by carpet.

Twenty-two dogs and eight cats were removed, one cat was put to sleep on site after collapsing and four dogs were later put to sleep on veterinary advice.

At today’s hearing the court was told that 28-year-old McEwan, of Town Street, Armley, had grown up with animals at her father’s farm and “loved” the pets in her care.

Referring to her relationship with Samuel, Jeremy Barton, mitigating, said: “Miss McEwan was in a position where she felt she was under his control and although she was responsible for the animals, she was herself in a very difficult position.”

Gary Samuel, leaving an earlier hearing, who has been disqualified as a veterinarian.

Gary Samuel, leaving an earlier hearing, who has been disqualified as a veterinarian.

Mr Barton said his client had received a “barrage of abuse” since her conviction.

“I have a number of messages that are nothing short of abusive and aggressive – threats of violence among others,” he said.

He appealed to District Judge Marie Mallon to allow McEwan to keep the four animals that had not been handed over to the RSPCA.

But Ms Mallon rejected the request, banning McEwan from having animals indefinitely.

RSPCA picture of the squalid conditions in which animals were found at Armley Vets in Leeds

RSPCA picture of the squalid conditions in which animals were found at Armley Vets in Leeds

She said: “The degree of [the animals’] weight loss was hugely significant. Their suffering, therefore, must have been equally significant.”

As well as the ban, McEwan was given a 12-week suspended prison sentence and 150 hours of unpaid work. She was also ordered to pay £330 in legal costs.

Speaking after the case RSPCA inspector Nikki Cheetham said: “As inspectors we see all sorts. You’re never surprised when you open the door. But to go into a vet’s surgery and find those conditions it’s just appalling.”

Samuel, of Western Road, Southall, Middlesex, will be sentenced next month.

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