Starving dogs found with rats, chicken and dove living in squalor at Leeds home

A Leeds couple have received a 10-year ban from keeping animals after two severely underweight dogs along with other animals were found in ‘disgusting’ conditions at their home.

By Andrew Hutchinson
Tuesday, 10th May 2022, 12:27 pm

Julie Pitts, 56, and Michael Short, 63, were sentenced at Kirklees Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday, April 19, following an investigation by the RSPCA.

When RSPCA Inspector Kris Walker called at the couple’s home on Moorlands Avenue in Leeds on July 15 last year he found two collie dogs, Toby and Cody, in a poor body condition. The inspector could feel the ribs, hips and spine of both dogs, who were both suffering from flea infections.

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The couple's Collie's Toby and Cody.

Two rats, who both appeared underweight and were suffering with skin problems, were living in a filthy cage without food or water, said the inspector.

And there was no clean water or food available to a chicken, who was in a dirty pen inside the living room. While a dove confined to a hamster cage had suffered a broken leg and wing.

In his statement, Inspector Walker said: “Miss Pitts advised me she had the collared dove for approximately four weeks… and she had not sought veterinary treatment.

“The whole house smelled strongly of ammonia and there were dog faeces in the living room.”

The inspector took the dogs and chicken to the vets along with the dove, who was sadly put to sleep to end his suffering.

In her report veterinary surgeon Jill Atkin said that when she first examined Toby he was “severely underweight”, while she viewed Cody to be in an “emaciated” condition.

Her professional opinion was that both dogs had suffered from a lack of feeding and veterinary care for a period of around three months, while the dove had been suffering for a period of at least three to four weeks.

Pitts and Short both pleaded guilty to causing unnecessary suffering by failing to investigate the cause of the dogs’ weight loss and they both admitted failing to meet the needs of the dogs, chicken and dove. Pitts also pleaded guilty to causing unnecessary suffering by failing to seek vet treatment for the dove.

In mitigation, Pitts claimed she rang the vets but was told they were only dealing with emergencies. The court was told the defendant took the dove into her home from children in the neighbourhood and could not bring herself to have the bird put down.

Short was suffering from cancer during the time he committed the offences, the court was told, and his health problems had “deflected him from his responsibility”.

Magistrates said they were “disgusted by the living conditions” and told Pitts to complete 20 rehabilitation activity (RAR) days as part of her 12-month community order.

Short was also handed a 12-month community sentence, which requires him to undertake 15 RAR days and he also has to undergo a nine-month alcohol treatment programme. Both defendants were told to pay a £95 victim surcharge.

Both dogs were later signed over into the care of the RSPCA and have since been rehomed.

The magistrates also made deprivation orders requiring the rehoming of other animals in the care of the defendants, who are appealing those orders as well as their 10-year disqualification orders from keeping all animals.