The defendant was ordered to pay £53,275.78 costs after an RSPCA prosecution
A Dorset woman who kept a large number of Persian cats in conditions of squalor has been convicted of 13 offences under the Animal Welfare Act.
RSPCA officers, who went to Lorraine George’s home in Christchurch on March 8 last year, found the cats were living in the bathroom, bedrooms, ensuite and two pens in a conservatory of the property, which were all littered with faeces and dirt.
The court was told that George kept and bred Persian cats and had given them a free run of her home.
But when the RSPCA visited her property along with officers from Dorset Police, many of the cats were in poor health, suffering from a number of ailments, including eye infections, respiratory illness, flea infestations, severely matted fur, while many were emaciated, two had ingrown claws and others dental issues.
One cat later had to be put to sleep to end her suffering.
George, (D.o.B 19/5/1959), of Freshwater Road, Christchurch, pleaded not guilty to 13 Animal Welfare Act offences, but was convicted after a trial. She was sentenced to 26 weeks in prison suspended for two years when she appeared at Bournemouth Crown Court on August 8.
She also received a disqualification order, which bans her from owning cats for 10 years and she was told to pay the costs of the legal proceedings, which amounted to £53,275.78.
RSPCA inspector Patrick Bailey said in a statement presented to the court that nearly all the ground floor of George’s property was inaccessible because of the amount of clutter.
“We were confronted by a wall of boxes and parcels, creating a thin walkway through the hallway to the kitchen, and I could hear cats calling throughout the house,” said the inspector.
“There was also a very strong, unpleasant smell of ammonia and it was impossible to enter the living room and dining room as they were stacked floor to ceiling with boxes of belongings.
The court heard that police found the defendant asleep on the floor of a bedroom, while her bathroom and an ensuite were occupied by cats.
The inspector added: “There were no clean facilities to use and it appeared to me the property barely functioned as a home anymore, instead it resembled a storage facility.”
RSPCA officers removed the cats from six living spaces so they could be assessed by vets in a mobile treatment vehicle.
A vet, who examined the cats, stated: “None of the pens provided a suitable environment for the needs of the cats as they were housing too many cats for the area provided. That and poor ventilation and hygiene contributed to a high prevalence of multiple infectious diseases.
“The provision of food and water was inadequate and food bowls were dirty and empty, litter tray provision was inadequate and there was a lack of enrichment for all the cats.”
One of the bedrooms some of the cats were living in was too hot, with poor ventilation, and the vet noted: “There was faecal staining all over the furniture, windowsill, bookshelves, bedside cabinets and faeces in the bed itself. The smell in this room was horrific.”
Among George’s cluttered possessions was a large number of sacks of cat and dog food and cat litter, but most of it had been left unopened.
The court was told the RSPCA had offered to rehome George’s cats in 2015 and provided her with advice on previous visits to the property.
George claimed some of the cats were thin because they had feline flu. The court was told that she also spent seven days in hospital in 2022 and a friend helped her to look after the cats for a short period. In mitigation, the court was told about the defendant’s infirmity.
In all, the RSPCA removed 29 Persian cats from the property and they were treated for their ailments, although one was so unwell she had to be put to sleep. The cats remain in the care of the charity and will be rehomed.
Sentencing her, the judge, HHJ Fuller, KC, said: “You had an excessive number of cats, which you were incapable of caring for. You obstinately refused to accept advice from others relating to the cats’ care. All these conditions would have been obvious to a careful and competent cat owner.
“This is not a case of incompetent care, this was prolonged disregard. This is a case of obstinacy and obsession and you showed deliberate disregard for animal welfare.”
Speaking after the sentencing, inspector Bailey said: “This case is an example of how the RSPCA will make every effort to try to educate an owner on the correct way to look after their animals before taking legal action.
“Inspectors repeatedly tried to encourage the defendant to reduce her number of cats, improve animal husbandry and crucially seek veterinary assistance in a timely manner, including euthanasia when required.
“But sadly, she didn’t make decisions based on what was in the best interests of each individual cat.”