Burbage pair in animal welfare case must wait to learn fate

This Is Wiltshire: Carol Pepper Carol Pepper

Burbage pair Carol Pepper and Sean Atkinson have to wait until Friday next week, November 2, to see if they will be found guilty of six offences of neglecting dogs in their care.

On Friday magistrates at Salisbury sat until 6pm hearing the closing submissions from defence lawyers, solicitor Nigel Weller representing Pepper and barrister Sara-Lise Howe defending Atkinson, after three days of hearing witnesses and legal argument.

The court heard that Atkinson, 55, worked for mother-of-two Pepper, 56 , who formerly bred Hungarian Puli dogs and who kept 17 of them at her home in the High Street in Burbage together with a couple of whippets, two terriers and three Alsatian-husky cross dogs.

The case, prosecuted by barrister Jeremy Cave for the RSPCA, revolved around the discovery of dogs both inside her home, Dollymixture Cottage, and in runs in the garden.

The three magistrates heard that 12 of the Puli, Hungarian sheep dogs, were kept in crates stacked two high in the kitchen of the cottage where the worktops showed it was still used for the preparation of drinks and food by Pepper and Atkinson.

When RSPCA Inspector Janet Edwards and Wiltshire police wildlife officer PC Tony Miles went to the cottage they found a large number of dogs indoors and in runs in the large garden.

Insp Edwards expressed concern at the condition of some of the dogs after learning that 17 of them were kept in crates and called veterinary surgeon Sarah Stiles who after examining the dogs gave the police officer authority to seize all 17 them because she was concerned they were likely to suffer if their living conditions remained unchanged.

Following a close inspection of the dogs, Ms Stiles told the court, she found issues over their coats being dirty and matted, some dogs had dermatitis. One dog had dental disease and one had a chronic ear condition that it would have had for weeks. All the dogs showed signs of flea infestation.

Pepper told the RSPCA inspector and police officer that Atkinson had been looking after the dogs because she had an illness resulting in one of her shoulders being paralysed although, the court heard, when one of the dogs was reluctant to leave its crate Pepper lifted it out and carried it outside to the RSPCA van that took the dogs to kennels.

The vet Ms Stiles told the court that the Puli dogs in the crates in the kitchen were “spinning constantly” and yapping incessantly which in her opinion were signs of boredom and frustration.

Atkinson told the court that because of Pepper’s illness he was solely responsible for the upkeep of the dogs and in return for looking after them he had lodgings at the cottage.

He said he had observed “no problems whatsoever” with any of the dogs he had been responsible for them since 2009 when Pepper became unwell. Prosecutor Mr Cave told him: “The fact is you were overwhelmed by the number of dogs you were looking after.”

Pepper and Atkinson deny six identical charges relating to alleged breaches of the Animal Welfare Act including failing to ensure dogs did not have access to water; were not adequately groomed; failing to address skin and ear conditions and failing to provide veterinary care.

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