Seventeen dogs were taken into care by the RSPCA after they went to the home of Burbage breeder Carol Pepper and her partner, a court heard.

Pepper, 55, and Sean Atkinson, 54, appeared at Salisbury Magistrates’ Court yesterday where each denies six allegations involving breaches of the Animal Welfare Act.

The pair lived in the thatched Dolly Mixture Cottage in the High Street.

But the exterior of the cottage, which is largely hidden by tall hedges, hid what went on inside, said RSPCA prosecutor Jeremy Cave.

In the kitchen where Pepper and Atkinson prepared their own food there were crates stacked two high containing 12 dogs, mainly the Hungarian pulis dogs that Pepper bred and advertised on a website.

RSPCA inspector Janet Edwards told the court that in all cases the coats of the dogs were matted with their distinctive ringlets “felted together and ingrained with dirt”.

There were more dogs in crates in the living room, upstairs in a bedroom, two dogs in a downstairs bathroom and five more pulis dogs in a covered run in the garden.

Insp Edwards said the outside run with dogs in had a dirt floor covered in faeces and the dogs had nowhere to lie down. Atkinson told her these dogs were normally indoors in crates.

The RSPCA inspector had gone to the house with police wildlife officer Tony Miles following reports that Pepper was keeping an owl in a cage.

In the sitting room, where there were caged dogs, they found the owl in a cage too small for it to fly in, although Pepper said she did let the bird out of the cage to fly around the room.

PC Miles was shown paperwork by Pepper confirming she was licensed to keep the bird but it was not the bird, or cats which the RSPCA inspector found in a cattery at the bottom of the garden, that led to Pepper and Atkinson appearing in court.

Each denies six charges brought under the Animal Welfare Act of failing to provide a suitable environment for dogs; failing to provide access to fresh water; causing unnecessary suffering by failing to protect dogs from injury or disease by not adequately grooming them; failing to address skin and ear conditions; failing to provide adequate veterinary care for a dog with an ear problem; and causing unnecessary suffering by failing to provide veterinary care for a dog with a skin condition.

Insp Edwards told the court: “When I went into the kitchen I was overcome by the smell of dog, ammonia and faeces.

“When I opened the door I was hit by the smell, it just filled my senses.

“It was difficult to breathe in there and I felt very uncomfortable.”

There was no food or water in the cages that were stacked two high and in some cases housed two dogs.

He said: “Some crates had newspaper in the bottom but in most cases it was shredded. One crate had faeces and urine running out of it.”

The trial is expected to last for three days.