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Lowestoft pair banned from keeping animals for five years after four 'starving' cats repeatedly left in filthy conditions



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A man and woman from Lowestoft have been banned from keeping animals for five years after repeatedly leaving their cats unattended, in filthy conditions without food or water.

Michael Driver, 22, and Bethany Wildman, 26, were disqualified from keeping all animals for a five-year period after a prosecution brought by the RSPCA was heard at Great Yarmouth Magistrates' Court last Tuesday.

It comes after the animal welfare charity was made aware that four cats had been left unattended in a flat in High Street last year.

The cats were repeatedly left unattended in filthy conditions. Picture: RSPCA
The cats were repeatedly left unattended in filthy conditions. Picture: RSPCA

A number of RSPCA officers tried to engage with the pair, visiting their flat on multiple occasions and placing seal tapes across the door to monitor if anyone was attending to the animals.

Fifteen visits were made initially last December over the course of two weeks, as officers repeatedly tried to get a response from their owners.

It was proven that the cats were left unattended on four occasions ranging from 24 hours to more than 48 hours.

Officers took photos and videos through the letterbox to try and assess the cats' conditions, and on each occasion, the animals could be heard meowing loudly and clawing at the door for food.

They were given pouches of food through the letterbox due to concerns they were not being fed.

Officers reported the cats ripping sachets of cat food out of their hands on occasions, such was their desperation.

An RSPCA spokesman said: "Unfortunately, the defendants continued to ignore contact attempts from the RSPCA until at last contact was made with Driver who claimed a friend was feeding the cats."

One of the four cats which has now been moved to a new home. Picture: RSPCA
One of the four cats which has now been moved to a new home. Picture: RSPCA

Police managed to get Driver to meet with them and RSPCA Inspector Amy Pellegrini, who led the investigation for the animal welfare charity, at the flat.

The court heard how conditions inside the property were poor, as it was 'dark and cold and there was mess everywhere', including three 'very soiled and dirty' litter trays.

It was agreed the cats would be removed and a warning notice was issued advising that the animals could not be returned to that flat until it was clean and kept clean. The cats also needed to be attended to twice daily and fed adequate amounts of food.

The RSPCA offered to rehome the cats but this offer was declined.

The pets were taken to two new addresses by the couple. Driver moved to Victoria Arcade in Great Yarmouth with Sparkle and Marble, but they were later found abandoned in the property.

Meanwhile, Wildman moved into a friend's property with HJ and Shadow, but she later returned them to the High Street flat against the RSPCA's advice.

The charity soon received another call after Christmas about the pets being left unattended.

The RSPCA was able to prove that the cats were not being attended to and again, the conditions inside the properties were filthy.

"There were no signs of any food or water within Driver’s flat and the cat Inspector Pellegrini saw inside the address was underweight and hungry," a spokesman said.

The animals were seized by police and placed into RSPCA care.

Sparkle and Marble have been rehomed together. Picture: RSPCA
Sparkle and Marble have been rehomed together. Picture: RSPCA

Inspector Pellegrini said: “I believed the cats were starving due to the scratches at the door and the loud noises they were making.

"It was claimed the flat was being visited everyday but we were able to prove that this simply was not true.

"No one was attending consistently each day and the behaviour of the cats was worrying.

"Each time the cats were fed through the letterbox they tried to take the pouches of cat food due to their desperation.”

All of the cats have since been rehomed, with Shadow and HJ moving into a new home together, and Sparkle and Marble also rehomed together.

Sparkle and Marble have now been rehomed. Picture: RSPCA
Sparkle and Marble have now been rehomed. Picture: RSPCA

Driver, of Ragland Street, pleaded guilty to two animal welfare offences of failing to meet the needs of his two cats Sparkle and Marble, while Wildman, of High Street, also admitted two offences of failing to meet the needs of a further two cats called HJ and Shadow.

Both were sentenced at Great Yarmouth Magistrates' Court last Tuesday, where they were also each fined £120 and ordered to pay £120 costs, alongside a £34 victim surcharge.

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