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Jail sentence for St Bernard breeder

A dog breeder who abandoned nearly 100 St Bernards to go on holiday has been jailed for 18 weeks on charges of animal cruelty.

Mary Ellen Collis of the Wardana Kennels had left the dogs unattended at the kennels in Brigstock, Northamptonshire, while she went on holiday with her partner to Tenerife. She pleaded guilty earlier this month to seven counts of causing unnecessary suffering to 85 dogs and one count of failing to meet the welfare needs of 14 dogs. She has also been disqualified from keeping any animals for a period of 10 years.

We reported last year that the dogs, which were discovered in November, had been found covered in faeces and urine and without food or water. many more were suffering from health problems.

Nine puppies were kept in a separate pen with no food or water.

Officers said that the pen was cold and the heat lamps provided were not working due to a lack of electricity. Thirteen dogs were found in the kitchen of the house connected with the kennels.

Chairman of magistrates, Dr Robin Pugsley, told Collis that the court felt it needed to give an immediate custodial sentence, owing to the number of dogs affected.

The court heard how a total of 99 dogs had been abandoned at the kennels. Eighty-five of the St Bernards were suffering from medical problems such as abscesses, ulcerated skin and eye conditions and ear infections which had not been treated. Many were emaciated.

Three of the puppies were very thin and their ribs were visible. One dog was unable to stand and was suffering from dehydration. She had several open sores on her legs and feet caused by pressure and urine scalds. Another was in such a poor condition that the vet had to put the dog to sleep at the scene to prevent him from suffering further.

Another dog died overnight after suffering a heart attack at the veterinary surgery. He was thin, covered in faeces and was suffering from severe dehydration. Another had severely ulcerated eyes, which had not been treated and had caused blindness. Dr Pugsley said: “As a trained veterinary nurse you would be in a position to appreciate the suffering to the animals in your care.”

poor state

Prosecutor Kevin McCole told the court that the RSPCA was called after David Nolan, a member of the public, became concerned about the welfare of his mother’s dog. Repeated visits found nobody on the site and Mr Nolan called the police, but they said they could do nothing if there was no immediate threat to a human. Eventually he contacted the RSPCA and asked them to intervene.

When inspectors went into the abandoned kennels on November 29 last year, they found dogs ranging from nine weeks to eight years of age, many of them were covered in urine and faeces. There was not enough food and water available and most were in a poor state.

Mr McCole said: “The defendant had left her premises and left the dogs effectively unattended while she went on holiday to Tenerife with her partner. It seems she went away on November 24 and subsequent to that for a number of days there was nobody at the premises.”

The court heard Collis, who had been declared bankrupt in 2007, claimed she was struggling for money in order to keep the kennels going. She told RSPCA inspectors that she had asked other people to look after the dogs, though they have since said they had never agreed to such a request.

Mr McCole told the court: “She gave no explanation as to why it was that she went away and why she made no provision for the wellbeing, welfare and care of the large number of dogs that were in her care at that time.’’

He told the court the dogs were boarded and treated by several vets – and experts concluded most of them had suffered neglect for several weeks or months.

Well respected

Ms Collis’ defence solicitor Ben Brown, said the 51-year-old’s actions were out of character. He said the former kennel-owner, who had bred and exhibited St Bernards for 30 years, had been well-respected in dog breeding circles.

He said she had bought the kennels in 2000, but things took a turn for the worse when she hit financial problems. She was declared bankrupt in May 2007 but Mr Brown said problems emerged with what to do with the dogs after the bankruptcy was set in motion.

After the sentencing, RSPCA inspector Clint Davies said: “Whilst there was no deliberate cruelty here, these dogs had been left in such a poor state that others may have died had we not been alerted. Many were in pain and suffering just because they had not received veterinary treatment and food. I am confident that the sentence will protect future animals from a similar fate.

“Thanks to the hard work of vets, our inspectors, officers and animal centres, new homes have now been found for all of the dogs. This could not have been done without the support of the public across the country who have once again helped us to provide a lifeline for animals in desperate need.”