53 animals kept in squalid conditions - but former Horncastle Mayor tells court she did all to comply with RSPCA

Horncastle RSPCA case EMN-141216-090413001
Horncastle RSPCA case EMN-141216-090413001

A former Mayor of Horncastle and her daughter left young rabbits to tunnel through knee deep muck and excrement, a court was told.

Pamela Crisp-Beard (63) and Marie Crisp-Beard (24) faced a catalogue of allegations regarding the welfare of more than 50 animals when they appeared before Skegness Magistrates last Friday.

The pair have each denied seven charges under the 2006 Animal Welfare Act.

Pamela Crisp-Beard, who was Mayor from May 1997 to May 1998, was a town councillor until 2011.

The charges relate to 22 chickens, 15 rabbits, five mice, four ducks, two rats, two dogs, a pheasant and two guinea pigs.

Magistrates heard that some of the chickens were kept in cat baskets in the kitchen.

Questioned by prosecutor Beris Brickles, vet Annalise Leslie described conditions at the Crisp-Beards’ home in Linden Road, Horncastle, as dank, dark and dirty with ‘extreme levels’ of clutter.

Magistrates heard the house smelled strongly of faeces and urine with animals’ cages piled on top of one another. Miss Leslie said cutlery - containing animal excrement - was piled on dirty work surfaces in the kitchen.

She told the court that 
the condition of the rear yard - which featured three sheds - was just as worrying. She described conditions both indoors and outdoors as “unhygienic and squalid.”

Miss Leslie told the court that some of the animals were coated in urine and faeces - including a pheasant which so badly encrusted it was difficult to identify.

Miss Leslie said some of the rabbits were housed in dark, cold, dirty and damp conditions which smelled “horrendous.”

She claimed it was difficult to open access doors to the sheds - because dirty straw, muck and excrement was so piled so high.

She said: “It was very, very deep compacted faeces. It was knee deep in places. The rabbits had created a network of tunnels through it.“

Many of the animals, she added, did not have access to food or clean water.

After visiting the premises with police and RSPCA inspectors, Miss Leslie said she had no hesitation in recommending the vast majority of the animals - including a dog and a cat - were removed.

A parrot was left behind.

She said she was also concerned about the condition of a cat which was “unnaturally greasy and dirty” and stained with urine.

She added that some of the animals were underweight while a rat, housed in the front room, was in a cage which was shorter than its actual body length.

Some of the rabbits had fur encrusted in faeces while two were suffering from “urine scalds” which had caused their fur to fall out.

But when she took the stand on Tuesday, Pamela Crisp-Beard stressed she had complied with all instructions given in the warning notices served by the RSPCA.

She told the court she had been at college when she had received a call to say police and RSPCA officers were at her house. She returned home 
and said: “It was a scene of total chaos, nobody was explaining what was going on.

“Animals were being marched out of the back door in containers. It was like a scene from a horror film.”

She added she was devastated she never got to say goodbye to her two dogs.

The court heard the RSPCA were initially called to the property on January 16 following a call to a telephone hotline.

On their first visit, RSPCA inspectors issued five animal welfare notices, giving the Crisp-Beards two weeks to make “significant improvements.”When two RSPCA inspectors called at the property again on January 29, they were asked by Maria Crisp-Beard to return the following day, because her mother wasn’t available.

When the inspectors returned on January 30, they were accompanied by two police officers and after an inspection, they called in a vet.

Defending, Ruth Harrop questioned some of the evidence against the Crisp-Beards, particularly in relation to the availability of clean water and food.

She pointed out the Crisp-Beards had co-operated with the inspections and had never raised any access issues.

The court heard the Crisp-Beards did get upset and “noisy” when told the animals were being seized.

Under cross examination, Pamela Crisp-Beard said there were inconsistences in the evidence produced by the vet and again stressed she had complied with all animal welfare notices.

She said the rabbits found by inspectors were “perfectly healthy,” but shown photographic evidence admitted she had failed to notice urine scalds.

RSPCA inspector Rebecca Lowe conceded she never felt threatened by the Crisp-Beards and defended the decision to call in police officers because a vet does not have the authority to seize animals.

The court adjourned on Friday to study witness statements and the defence was due to open its case today (Tuesday).

*Pamela Crisp-Beard also faces two charges relating to being in charge of a dog which was dangerously out of control in a public place.