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Animal house woman freed on appeal

A WOMAN jailed for animal cruelty after keeping 271 pets into her cottage has been released on appeal.

Rosalind Gregson, 55, was released after serving one week of a three-month prison term following an appeal hearing at Preston Crown Court on Friday last week.

She was given a three-year community rehabilitation order, but was told that the life ban on keeping animals would still stand.

Gregson had pleaded guilty to causing unnecessary harm to animals.

She was jailed by Preston Magistrates two weeks ago after admitting nine counts of causing unnecessary harm to animals.

Judge Andrew Gilbart QC said at last Friday's appeal hearing: "This is not a case involving torture, malice, or sadism, but there are aggravating features in this case.

"There is evidence of the disregard of the warnings of others, there's evidence of neglect and there is evidence of significant injury."

He said that the custodial threshold had been passed in principle, but that a community rehabilitation order was more suitable as it would include counselling to help her deal with her grief and mental health problems.

As previously reported, when the RSPCA raided Gregson's home in Silverdale, Lancashire, in September 2003, they found 246 dogs, 16 birds, five cats, two kittens, a rabbit and a chinchilla.

The animals were emaciated and many were covered in faeces and urine, and were suffering from infections and injuries.

Nine of the animals had to be put down shortly after RSPCA inspectors removed them from her home.

Gregson, who lived in the house with her husband Alan, had initially denied 49 counts of causing unreasonable suffering to animals, but three days into her trial in May she changed her plea and admitted nine counts.

The nine charges all related to neglected dogs - two Yorkshire terriers, three Lhasa Apsos, three Shih Tzus and one Old English Sheepdog.

Obsessive

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 the sheer numbers overwhelmed her. 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.

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

She pointed out that Gregson had received no counselling for her grief following her son’s death and little support from those closest to her when her obsessive behaviour got out of hand.
Ms Gregory also revealed details of the couple’s 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 RSPCA welcomed the outcome of the appeal.

Spokeswoman Heather Holmes said: "I think it's a very satisfactory outcome in that the disqualification remains unchanged and for the RSPCA that is the most important element of the court case."