A COUPLE whose six dogs and pet Bearded Dragon lizard were rescued from a life of neglect and suffering in a squalid, stinking, faeces-filled house have been sentenced to suspended jail terms.

Animal welfare officials were alerted to the plight of Stacey and Jon McDermott’s pets in New Road, Bream when Mrs McDermott, 54, handed over two of the dogs to a local dog rescue centre, Cheltenham magistrates heard on Monday (October 31).

The dogs were examined by vets and found to be in poor health and staff at the centre then made repeated attempts to visit the couple because they were aware they also had other dogs which might also be suffering.

They tried on numerous occasions to gain entry, but were unsuccessful, the court was told.

The RSPCA then became involved and the Forest Council obtained a warrant to get access to the property on February 9. 

On entry, the smell of urine and dog faeces was so overpowering it made one of the officers retch, the court was told.

Prosecutor Alex Kirk said: “The master bedroom was in a shocking state as six cross-breed adult Cavapoo dogs were kept inside. The quantity of faeces was overwhelming and the amount of it showed that the room hadn’t been cleaned for a number of months.

“The dogs were seized and were found to be suffering from a number of conditions. One had an infection in its eye which had to be removed by a vet while another was significantly smaller than the others.

“Another three dogs had otitis (a middle ear infection) in both ears while the remainder were suffering from long-term skin inflammations causing them animal’s pain, itching and overall long-term suffering.”

Mr Kirk explained that the house was in a cluttered state with an ‘overwhelming stench of ammonia and fleas.

He said that Jon McDermott, 57, just sat and watched the television in the lounge as the animal welfare team looked around the property.

Mr Kirk added: “Inside an outbuilding there was a cage that contained a Bearded Dragon lizard which, because of the lack of ultra violet light, was not the sandy-yellow colour it would normally be.

“When the cage was opened the lizard did not move or react. The lizard was seized and ultimately taken to a reptile sanctuary.”

Mr Kirk concluded “This was a long-standing period of neglect where the animals suffered badly, contracting severe eye and ear conditions along with skin inflammation. The amount of faeces discovered showed this was not a recent occurrence but had been going on for some time.”

Holly Burton, for the couple said they owed more than £10,000 in various debts.

She added: “Both of them have mental health difficulties and were living themselves among these poor living conditions.

“The couple did not deliberately mistreat the animals, but had become neglectful, mainly due to the deterioration of their mental health.

“This case effectively only came to light when Mrs McDermott handed over two dogs to the local rescue centre. They are both remorseful and realise this was the wake-up call they needed.

“They rely on each other for different reasons and have set about cleaning the house so it can be put on the market to be sold to pay off their debts.

“They do not intend on having a dog ever again and would not object to the proposed prohibition order.”

Both Mr and Mrs McDermott admitted that on February 9 this year they did not take reasonable steps to ensure that the needs of a Bearded Dragon Lizard, for which they were responsible, in that they failed to ensure a suitable, clean environment with a regulated temperature and a suitable diet and its protection from pain, suffering, injury and disease.

They also admitted on the same date they did not take reasonable steps to ensure that the needs of six cross breed adult Cavapoo dogs in that they failed to provide them with access to fresh drinking water, clean bedding, access to a separate toileting area, a suitable diet and protection from pain, suffering, injury and disease.

Mrs McDermott also admitted that being the person responsible for a male cross-breed Cavapoo dog in that she failed to act in taking such steps as were reasonable to provide timely and appropriate veterinary treatment for the animal that had microphthalmia of the right eye.

She also admitted that, having responsibility for another three adult, cross-breed Cavapoo dogs, she failed to take steps to provide timely and appropriate veterinary treatment for the animals that each had otitis in both ears and long-term skin inflammations, causing them pain, itching and suffering.”

Presiding Justice Clive Powell told the McDermotts that he had seen the photographic evidence of the dogs and the bearded dragon lizard’s neglect and added: “They had no choice in how they lived or were treated. But you did.

“These offences cross the custody threshold, but this will be of little use. You are therefor being sentenced to a prison term of eight weeks, which will be suspended for 12 months.

“However I am imposing a prohibition order preventing you from keeping dogs for five years. This order does not cover other pets like cats or lizards, but I would suggest you refrain from having any pets for the duration of this order.”

Both McDermotts were ordered to pay a contribution towards court costs of £750 each and a mandatory surcharge of £154.

A Forest of Dean District Council spokesperson said after the hearing: “The prosecution was brought by the Street Warden Team at The Forest of Dean District Council with the assistance of the Counter Fraud and Enforcement Unit.”

Leader of Forest of Dean District Council, Cllr Mark Topping, said: “Our Street Warden team does a fantastic job ensuring that animals in our district are looked after properly, and that those who mistreat, or cause harm to their animals are held accountable for their actions. Today’s verdict should stand as testament to this.

“We will not allow animals in the Forest of Dean to suffer from neglect and if, as in this case, proper care is not provided then our Street Warden and Counter Fraud and Enforcement team will take enforcement action.”

The council spokesperson added: “The warrant was executed at the address on Thursday 9 of February 2023 with the assistance of the Rural Crime Team and Local Policing Team from Gloucestershire Constabulary.

“Within the premises, six dogs and a bearded dragon were discovered in poor conditions. Four of the dogs – cavapoos/cross breeds - were found in an upstairs bedroom in squalid conditions. The wooden bedroom floor and en-suite floor was covered in dog faeces and urine and the dogs were unkempt with long claws and matted fur.

“Two further dogs were kept downstairs in the kitchen, with the floor of the kitchen containing dried and fresh dog faeces and all dogs having very little bedding.

“The dogs were seized from the address and were taken for treatment at a local vet practice. They were found to have various health conditions, badly matted coats, and were covered in fleas.

“The bearded dragon was found in the conservatory area in an appropriately-sized vivarium, but had no heat and no lighting at the time of the officers’ attendance. The substrate was full of faeces and there appeared to be no fresh food or water.”

Community Safety Lead at Forest of Dean District Council, Damion Collins added: “We do all we can to prevent animals being subjected to suffering and I would like to thank everyone involved in investigating this case, and bringing this successful prosecution.”

“No animal should have to suffer. The owner of the animal has the responsibility to ensure the animal is protected, kept free from pain and nurtured in a safe environment.

“If you have any welfare concerns for animals that you are aware of, please do not hesitate to contact our street warden team at [email protected].”