East Grafton pet sanctuary became a hell
1:36pm Thursday 20th January 2011 in By Nigel Kerton
A couple who turned their house into an animal sanctuary where pets should have been given a home from home allowed it to become a hellhole of death.
A court heard there were dead dogs in their kitchen and annex, a dead lizard in a vivarium in one of their bedrooms, dead pet mice in the sitting room and a dead rabbit in a hutch in their garden.
Claire Strong, 22, and Paul Wilson, 44, who operated the Wiltshire Animal Rescue and Sanctuary (WARAS) from their home in The Severalls in East Grafton, were each convicted at Salisbury Magistrates Court on Monday of 13 charges of animal cruelty, which they had denied and contested during an 11 day trial.
Strong’s best friend Shirley Oakey, who lived close by in Hungerford Road, told the court: “She said she had turned into the kind of person she had always had a grudge against...she told me she had made herself into a monster.”
Strong and Wilson both face the possibility of going to jail because each of the charges they were convicted of on Monday carries a maximum six-month prison sentence.
The pair claimed they had been lovers but had parted and were living in separate rooms when the RSPCA and police raided the house in July 2009. They employed the country’s top specialists in defending RSPCA cruelty allegations, Sussex-based Robert Weller and Co, paid for by legal aid.
Wilson, an IT worker, claimed that although he lived in the house that was rented in his name he had nothing to do with running WARAS and that it was entirely Strong’s responsibility He told the court that he went through the front door and straight up to his bedroom and was not aware of the carnage downstairs that RSPCA Inspector Will Hendry and PC Ivor Noyce. They went to the house on July 9 last year in response to calls from a neighbour who had looked in a window and seen the carcasses of dogs lying uncovered on the floor in a ground floor annex.
Mr Weller argued that the RSPCA had no rights to enter the property without being invited and said Strong, who was home at the time of their visit, had not invited them into the house.
Insp Hendry and PC Noyce, however, both testified that Strong had told them they were welcome to look around the house.
The dead animals were not the subject of any of the charges because there was no evidence that their death was the result of suffering. A video of the sights that greeted the two officers was shown to the three women magistrates.
The charges on which Wilson and Strong were convicted involved dogs, rabbits, mice and reptiles and related to their poor living conditions, bad diets, failing to protect them from pain, injury and suffering and failing to provide veterinary care.
The pair will be sentenced on February 18.
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