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‘Animal house’ woman pleads guilty

A WOMAN who kept 271 animals in appalling conditions at her home in Lancashire admitted nine cruelty charges in court last week.

Rosalind Gregson of Silverdale, had denied a total of 49 charges of failing to provide the animals with necessary care and attention.

The trial was halted after she dramatically changed her plea to guilty at Preston Magistrates Court last Friday.

The case was adjourned for three weeks until sentencing.. Mrs Gregson has agreed to hand over ownership of all the animals recovered from the house to the RSPCA, so that they may be rehomed. Forty remaining charges of animal neglect will remain on file.

The court had previously heard that RSPCA officer Sarah Harland found dogs, birds, cats, a rabbit and a chinchilla at her home.

Officer Sarah Hayland said she was shocked when she visited Gregson’s home in Lindeth Road, Silverdale on September 10th 2003 after a tip-off.

Mrs Hayland found dogs, birds, cats, a rabbit and a chinchilla - some caged and some loose - the court heard. She was struck by an overpowering stench of ammonia, urine and excrement when she first entered the cottage.

Mrs Hayland said, "I was quite shocked, I was finding it difficult to cope with the smell and the general atmosphere. My eyes were watering and I was finding it difficult to breathe." She had to go out for fresh air after only a few minutes, the court was told.

As Mrs Hayland looked round each room in the cottage she came across numerous animals with many in a poor condition, a number injured and provided with little water and light.

She said the bathroom was the most shocking room. "There was a board over the bath and the dogs were in cages just stacked on top of it. Some of them were covered with blankets."

She found a small very poorly Yorkshire terrier in one cage, with a matted coat. "You could see its bones and it had some sort of injury to its hind leg. It seemed to be an old wound," said Mrs Hayland.

Ann-Marie Gregory, defending Gregson, told Friday's hearing: "There is a very tragic background to this case. It's not a deliberate or wanton act.

"It's taken some act of courage for Mrs Gregson to do this today. "Of course, it's right there are nine animals that suffered and she must be punished."

District Judge Peter Ward adjourned the case to allow probation reports to be compiled but said he was keeping "all options open".

The nine charges referred to cruelty to nine dogs - two Yorkshire Terriers, three Lhasa Apsos, three Shih Tzus and one Old English Sheepdog.

Five of the animals had been so mistreated that they had to be put down.

Mr Ward said, "If we look to the nature of the offences and have regard to the offender, one is bound to look at a custodial sentence as a starting point and consider the particular circumstances of the mitigation.

"It seems to me we can quite adequately deal with the justice of this case on the nine (charges) and it's reasonable in the circumstances not to pursue the others."

The RSPCA has applied for costs totalling £139,749.22.

Gregson was released on bail and has to return to court on 10 June for sentence.