RSPCA INSPECTORS discovered 269 animals living in utterly disgusting conditions in a three-bedroom house last week
Acting on a tip-off from the public, they discovered 244 dogs, seven cats, a rabbit, a chinchilla and a variety of exotic birds. As they searched the house in Wellbank, in the Silverdale district of Carnforth, Lancashire, owned Alan and Rosalind Gregson of, were being questioned by an RSPCA team, animal welfare experts found every room, from the basement to the loft, "full to the brim with animals".
According to neighbours, noise from dogs at the property has been a constant irritant for a decade. Animal cages could be seen in the house through filthy windows. Neighbours also claimed that the floor of the house was encrusted with faeces and that the dirt and smell had attracted rats.
The Gregsons were described by one neighbour as being very private and ignoring him whenever he had tried to speak to them. Mr Gregson is believed to work as a plasterer or building labourer.
RSPCA personnel were mobilised from around the country in a two-day operation to rescue the animals, involving the use of a dozen vans.
On day one, two RSPCA inspectors, an RSPCA animal collection officer (ACO) and two dog wardens from Lancaster City Council took part.
On day two the team was seven inspectors, seven ACOs, an RSPCA superintendent, two staff from a local animal centre, two vets and the two dog wardens.
Some of the worst neglect was suffered by the dogs, which were all small to medium breeds, including Shih Tzus, Dachshunds, Lhasa Apsos, Bearded Collies, Corgis, Chihuahuas, Poodles, Pekingese and Yorkshire terriers.
The RSPCA is treating 47 dogs found to have matted coats, sores, mites and fleas at a centre in Great Ayton, North Yorkshire. Others were suffering from eye and ear conditions and one had an eye removed immediately after the raid on September 10th.
Among the birds were a macaw, an Amazonian parrot and an African Grey. There was none from an endangered species. The RSPCA sent inspectors accompanied by a dog warden from Lancashire County Council. About 25 animal welfare experts worked for two days removing the animals and fitting microchips in their necks for identification.
Most of the animals had been well fed, one inspector. said. "They all appear to have had a decent diet, which for the owners' point of view must have been as expensive as it was time-consuming."
The owners were co-operating with the inquiry and would be asked to relinquish ownership of the animals.
The RSCPA has declined to name the couple or give their address because that may prejudice a possible prosecution.
Although the RSPCA had dealt with larger numbers of animals such as an abandoned flock of sheep, this was the largest seizure of domestic animals. "We haven't come across anything like this in the past," said Chief Superintendent Hamish Rogers.
"It is a type of obsessive-compulsive disorder that certain individuals have. A lot of them believe they have a special ability to care for the animals that they believe can't survive without their input and the situation gets out of control. Many of the animals are not neutered and so they breed indiscriminately, then the keepers cannot afford to take them to the vet and it becomes part of a vicious cycle."