A HUDDERSFIELD dog breeder who abandoned nearly 100 St Bernards to go on holiday has been jailed for 18 weeks for animal cruelty.
Mary Collis, 51, of Denby Lane, Upper Denby, had pleaded guilty earlier this month to seven counts of causing unnecessary suffering to 85 dogs and one count of failing to meet the welfare needs of 14 dogs.
Wellingborough Magistrates Court heard Collis, a bankrupt, left the dogs unattended at Wardana Kennels in Brigstock, Northamptonshire, while she went on holiday with her partner to Tenerife.
The St Bernards were found in November last year covered in faeces and urine, without food or water, and many with health problems.
Collis was also disqualified from keeping any animals for 10 years.
Chairman of magistrates Dr Robin Pugsley told her they felt they needed to give an immediate custodial sentence because of the number of dogs affected.
The court heard 99 dogs had been abandoned at the kennels. Sixteen dogs had since died. The remaining 83 were rehomed.
Dr Pugsley said: “As a trained veterinary nurse you would be in a position to appreciate the suffering to the animals in your care.”
Prosecutor Kevin McCole told the court the RSPCA was called after David Nolan, a member of the public, became concerned about the welfare of his mother’s dog.
Repeated visits found nobody on the site and Mr Nolan called the police, but they said they could do nothing if there was no immediate threat to a human. Eventually he contacted the RSPCA
When inspectors went into the abandoned kennels on November 29 they found dogs ranging from nine weeks to eight years old, covered in urine and faeces. There was not enough food and water available and most were in a poor state.
Mr McCole said: “The defendant had left her premises and left the dogs effectively unattended while she went on holiday to Tenerife with her partner.
“It seems she went away on November 24 and subsequent to that for a number of days there was nobody at the premises.”
The court heard Collis, who was declared bankrupt in 2007, claimed she was struggling for money.
She told RSPCA inspectors she had asked other people to look after the dogs, but they said they had never agreed to such a request.
Mr McCole said: “She gave no explanation as to why it was that she went away and why she made no provision for the wellbeing, welfare and care of the large number of dogs that were in her care at that time.’’
He told the court the dogs were boarded and treated by several vets – and experts concluded most of them had suffered neglect for several weeks or months.
But in mitigation, defence solicitor Ben Brown said the 51-year-old’s actions were out of character. He said the former kennel-owner, who bred St Bernards for 30 years, had been well-respected in dog breeding circles.
She bought the kennels in 2000/01, but things took a turn for the worse when she hit financial problems.
She was declared bankrupt in May 2007 but Mr Brown said problems emerged with what to do with the dogs after the bankruptcy was set in motion.
He said efforts were made by authorities in charge of the bankruptcy to contact the RSPCA but they said nothing could be done unless the animals were at risk of neglect.
Mr Brown said: “The situation is she was living at the property pending eviction with a limited income.
“She was looking after animals that did not belong to her. She could not sell them or rehome them because they were not her property.”
He said Collis became very depressed, and it was her partner’s suggestion to take her on holiday.
“It got to the point that she could not cope, she had lost everything and she put her head in the sand,” Mr Brown said.
“In essence, this is a story of a woman who, in the animal world at least, was at the top of her game for 30 years.
“She won prizes, she was recognised for her animals being in excellent condition and her business well-run.
“Today her reputation is in ruins, she has nothing and it’s highly unlikely she will be involved in animals again.
“She is bankrupt, her business has gone, she has nothing left.”
But magistrates ruled that Collis had not made enough effort to contact authorities that could have helped her deal with the dogs.
The court heard Collis had arranged for a friend to go to the kennels on a specific date, but only to board two more dogs.
Mr McCole told the court it had cost around £90,000 to board the dogs from November until March when they could be found new homes.
But Mr Brown said once Collis’ kennels had been repossessed the money had been paid – assuring the court she had not received a penny.
Magistrates gave her credit for pleading guilty to causing unnecessary suffering to 85 dogs and failing to meet the welfare needs of another 14.
She was jailed for 18 weeks.
RSPCA Inspector Clint Davies said: “Obviously for us the disqualification period was most important.
“The longer the disqualification period the better because we don’t want these people starting to take on animals again and a lot of the time they do, it’s in their blood.
“Her finances were getting worse and worse. There was only one way this was going to go.
“That, plus the fact she went on holiday with things the way they were, plus the fact she booked two more animals in via text message. I think it shows complete disregard for the animals.”