Dozens of animals found in filthy property

Dozens of cats were found in a former rescue full of rubbish, urine, and faeces. Martin Clowes, 55, and Gavin James Cromwell, 42, were disqualified from keeping animals for 10 years after they admitted to failing to provide a suitable environment for 24 cats.

The conditions were revealed on March 22 last year when South Wales Fire and Rescue Service called the RSPCA to assist them at a property in Pyle Road, Bridgend, following a house fire.

A total of 11 cats were found to be deceased at the property while 13 cats were found alive and taken into RSPCA care.

On her arrival RSPCA animal rescue officer (ARO) Paula Milton was told by a fire officer that they had found two cats alive inside the house. She was also told by a neighbour that the owner had opened up a rescue called Jemima’s Place which at first opened in Bridgend and then moved to the Pyle Road property.

When she entered she said: “The smell from the house was so strong with urine and faeces. As I entered the house there was a smell of smoke but the smell of urine and faeces was overpowering the smell of the smoke.

“In the living room there were lots and lots of black rubbish bags full of soiled cat litter. This was piled about 3ft high. The rest of the living room was covered with clutter and the floor was covered in faeces. There were a few deceased cats in the living room on the floor.”

She also said there was a room next to the living room where there were again loads of black rubbish bags full of soiled cat litter. This filled most of the room and was piled about 6ft high.

Once the fire service had finished upstairs ARO Milton was able to try and catch the cats. She was told that the house was safe apart from the bedroom that had a hole in the floor from the fire. She then met Clowes who said he was the owner and he helped her catch the live cats.

“I went to go up the stairs and the stairs were covered in cat faeces. At the top of the stairs there were two dead cats in the upstairs hall,” she said. “Also in the hall there were more black rubbish bags full of soiled cat litter. There was faeces and rubbish all over the floor."

In the bathroom she found three live cats. She said the bathroom floor "was completely covered in cat faeces”. The three cats – Cheeko, a black seven-year-old cat, Ady, a seven-year-old white and black cat, and Lewis, a tabby and white four-year-old – were caught and placed into her van.

There were also two cats that were taken to a vets in Bridgend by someone on the morning of the fire. Clowes also agreed to sign these cats over into RSPCA care.

ARO Milton went back into the house to see if there were any more cats and she found further rubbish. She said: “In the hall upstairs leading to the bedrooms there was a pile of black rubbish bags full of soiled cat litter that was about 2ft high. I couldn't get into the smaller bedroom. This room was full of rubbish and faeces.

“In the main bedroom where the fire was in the left-hand corner again [there were] more rubbish bags with soiled cat litter. There were a few bags on the right-hand side and also at the back of the room the left side of the bed was more black bags with soiled litter. This was about 2ft high also.”

She and Clowes started collecting the bodies of the cats who had died in the fire and in total 11 cats were found. ARO Milton said she was told that Clowes did not live at the house but he visited three to four times a day to feed the cats.

The following day RSPCA deputy chief inspector (DCI) Gemma Cooper met Clowes where he showed her four more cats that had been in the house fire to her. These four cats along with the two that had been taken to a vets in Bridgend were then transferred to RSPCA Merthyr Tydfil Veterinary Clinic. In her written statement provided to the court DCI Cooper said the environment in which 24 cats were living was “not safe, clean, or hygienic”.

There was an electric heater which had been left on inside the house while it was unoccupied which was described as an “obvious hazard”. No litter trays were provided and the cats were toileting all over the floor of the property and there was no substrate provided for them to cover it up. DCI Cooper said there was no mental or physical stimulation inside the property for the cats and there was not enough space for the cats to have their own space if needed inside the two-bedroomed cottage.

The court also heard that another animal charity which is no longer running removed around 30 cats in poor health from Jemima’s Place in 2021 when Clowes and Cromwell admitted they could not cope. The 13 cats involved in this case were signed over to the RSPCA and have been rehomed.

Clowes and Cromwell – both of Tyn-Y-Celler, Water Street, Margam – were sentenced at Swansea Magistrates' Court on Monday, January 15, and were sentenced to 12 weeks imprisonment suspended for 12 months. They were also banned from keeping all animals for 10 years. They were each ordered to pay £300 costs each and a £54 victim surcharge. In mitigation the court heard that they had good intentions but lost control and that the defendants have regret and remorse.