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‘Animal House’ woman jailed

A DEPRESSED woman who collected hundreds of dogs to compensate for the death of a son through a drugs overdose was jailed last week for causing unnecessary suffering to animals.

As reported previously, Rosalind Gregson, 55, who told the court that she loved her growing menagerie, felt powerless to fight her obsession until she had accumulated 246 dogs, 16 birds and seven cats, which were kept in such squalid conditions that nine had to be put down.

Mrs Gregson sobbed in the dock at Preston Magistrates’ Court as her counsel outlined details of a life lived on the edge of sanity. She rarely left the isolated cottage in Silverdale, near Carnforth, Lancashire, where she ended up spending 16 hours a day trying to care for her animals.

She began collecting the dogs after her son’s death 15 years ago. Her husband Alan, a builder, would buy her new dogs from time to time as a "temporary fix", although the couple rarely spoke to each other. Over time she became overwhelmed by the sheer numbers. So deep-seated was her obsession that she became estranged permanently from her surviving son because she told him she could not go to his wedding as she was too busy looking after her pets.

At her trial, Mrs Gregson initially pleaded not guilty to all the charges brought against her. Three days into her trial she dramatically pleaded guilty to nine charges, after her defence counsel reached a deal with the prosecution that the remaining charges would be dropped.

Ignored

Before being jailed by District Judge Peter Ward, she stood up in the dock to say sorry and to make a plea to be given a "second chance" to be allowed to keep a small number of dogs. The plea was ignored by the judge who disqualified her from owning a pet for life.

Ann-Marie Gregory, for the defence, said that Mrs Gregson, who relies on her husband’s earnings, spent £82,000 buying the animals from pet shops over a number the years.

Ms Gregory also painted a picture of a bizarre marriage where Mr Gregson retreated to the living room, which housed a television set, blocking out the stench and noise from the starving animals around him.

Mr Gregson insisted afterwards he knew little of their suffering because he had not been in the kitchen for five years. Each night he would come home from work with a takeaway meal which they would eat without speaking. Sometimes they could go six weeks without exchanging a word.

The judge jailed Mrs Gregson for three months. She will serve at least half the sentence in jail.

The RSPCA, which racked up costs in the case of £141,129, asked for legal costs of £35,000. The judge ruled that they will be paid out of public funds.