Cat Cruelty: Woman banned from keeping animals for five years

A woman has been banned from keeping animals for five years after keeping her cats in the most 'disgusting environment' an RSPCA inspector had ever seen.


Sara Whitton kept the two flea-ridden cats in a flat in Lupton Walk in Lowedges, Sheffield which was strewn with rubbish and faeces. One of the animals was suffering from severe dental disease and had 16 teeth missing upon inspection by the RSPCA.

Sheffield Magistrates' Court heard that RSPCA inspector Jack Taylor visited the property on June 25 last year following welfare concerns about the animals. The inspector told the court he could see household rubbish all over the floor when looking through the letterbox, which made it difficult for Whitton, 52, to open the door.

Whitton was warned the environment was not suitable for her pets and was issued with an improvement notice.

But further visits to the property showed conditions had not improved and, on August 5, a warrant was carried out with the police and the cats were removed.

Mr Taylor told the court the property was the 'most disgusting environment [he] had ever experienced'.

'There was household rubbish all over the flat, covering every inch of floor', he said. 'The kitchen was full of mouldy food piled high. There was a fridge in the living room which was in working order, but it was full of black mouldy food and overflowing so the door couldn't close.

'There were multiple bottles of milk that were so old, the contents had solidified inside the cartons.

'It was the most disgusting environment I had ever experienced, and I could not believe a person could live in this environment, let alone cats.

'Behind the tv stand in the living room was a huge mound of cat faeces, which the cats had obviously chosen to use as their toilet as the litter tray in the bathroom was still full and overflowing'.

He made repeated attempts to meet Whitton and interview her about the situation, but his phone calls went unanswered and appointments were missed.

Environmental health officers were also unable to get her to engage with them.

The court heard that both cats, called Sooty, a tabby and white male, and Kiki, a tabby female, were terrified and unhandled but were eventually caught and taken for veterinary treatment.

The court was told that during the rescue, one of Sooty's canine teeth came away from the root, and that on examination, Kiki was found to have several bald patches of alopecia, which were self-inflicted due to a severe flea infestation.

Sooty was found to have severe dental disease affecting his remaining teeth. In total, 16 were missing and had no remaining root left behind, and four were surgically removed.

Giving evidence, the vet who examined the animals said: 'It is my opinion that these cats have suffered because of the owner's failure to seek veterinary attention, especially for Sooty's severe dental disease.

'An accurate period of suffering is difficult to estimate, but due to the chronicity it might have been over six months. The owner should have sought veterinary advice when fresh blood or a strong smell was noticed.

'In Kiki's case, the severe flea infestation had caused unnecessary suffering. Section 9 of the Animal Welfare Act (2006) states that animals must be protected from pain, suffering, injury or disease.

'Failure of the owner in this case to take reasonable steps to prevent pain, suffering and distress to meet the needs of the animal, breaches this legislation'.

The court was told Whitton was remorseful and ashamed of the situation, and recognised she had needed help, and that she no longer wished to keep animals.

Whitton admitted two charges contrary to the Animal Welfare Act 2006 at a hearing in June as was sentenced on September 22 following a prosecution by the RSPCA.

In addition to the five year ban on keeping animals, she was also handed down a 12 month Community Order with 20 RAR days, costs of £200 and a victim surcharge of £114. A confiscation order was also imposed by the court after Whitton had initially refused to hand the cats over.

Both animals have been looked after by the RSPCA's Doncaster, Rotherham and District Brand.