Saturday, October 24, 2009

United Kingdom: Puppy mill owner Mary Ellen Collis, 51, pleads guilty to abusing her 99 St. Bernards

UNITED KINGDOM -- A boarding kennel owner who cruelly abandoned nearly 100 St Bernard dogs in squalor while she holidayed in Tenerife was jailed for 18 weeks today.

Mary Ellen Collis, 51, pleaded guilty to seven charges of causing unnecessary suffering to 85 dogs and one charge of failing to meet the needs of a further 14 dogs.

Collis, former owner of the Wardana boarding kennels near Brigstock, Northants., was charged after an RSPCA raid on the kennels on November 28 2008.

Animal welfare officers were tipped off by a concerned man, who left his mother's dog at the boarding kennels but could not contact anyone when he tried to check on the animal.

Wellingborough Magistrates' Court heard how officers arrived to find NINETY-NINE St Bernards living in the filthy cramped kennels while she sunned herself in Spain.

The animals, ranging from nine weeks to eight years old had no access to fresh food or water and were living in kennels covered in urine and excrement.

Many of the dogs were up to 30 per cent underweight with feces matted in their hair, eye and ear infections and sore and swollen feet.

One died soon after being discovered while another had to be out down by vets. 14 others subsequently died while the rest have now been re-homed by the RSPCA

Kevin McCole, prosecuting for the RSPCA, described how the dogs were found locked in four kennel blocks, the kitchen of the main house on the premises, and nine puppies were discovered in two pens in the garden.

He read out evidence from numerous vets who inspected the St Bernards after their removal from the kennels.

Mr McCole said: 'The defendant left the dogs on the premises while she went on holiday to Tenerife with her partner. There was nobody present on the premises and various people attended to find them empty and the dogs left on their own.

'In the end the situation got so bad that one concerned member of the public called the police and jumped the fence to find the animals in a terrible state.

'The dogs were suffering from severe and prolonged neglect and were very depressed. They were suffering with severe weight loss and had suffered for a considerable period of many weeks, if not months.'

When questioned, the defendant said she could not give a proper explanation as to how this came about.

RSPCA inspectors also discovered three cats and a number of other dogs boarding at the kennels who were in a better state than the St Bernards.

Ben Brown, mitigating, said his client apologised for her actions and had been driven to desperation after being declared bankrupt in May 2007. Mr Brown told the court that Collis had been taken on holiday by her partner to escape her difficult financial situation.

He said: 'She had left the premises because her partner could see she was at the end of her tether and very stressed because of her financial situation and decided to take her away for a week. She has bred dogs for around 30 years and has been nationally recognised by the Kennel Club in that time.

'She ended up in a situation where she couldn't afford vets' bills and got to a point where she couldn't cope so she buried her head in the sand.

'My client has been crucified by the media, is bankrupt, has lost her home and her business and can no longer hold her head high in the street - she has had to leave Northamptonshire.

'This is quite a fall for a once highly successful business woman who as she stands today has nothing - at 59 she has to rebuild her life again. 'She has shown genuine remorse and is truly sorry.'

Mr Brown added that Collis was now working for a temping agency and is earning £185 a week working in a Bon Marche store.

Chair of the bench Dr Robin Pugsley sentenced Collis to 18 weeks in prison and disqualified her from keeping animals for 10 years.

The dogs are recovering and will be up for adoption

He said: 'The custody threshold has been passed and sixteen dogs died as a result of that neglect. While you were on holiday the dogs were ordered by private individuals and two were even delivered while you were away.

'As a qualified veterinary nurse you were in a position to see how these animals were suffering but you did not make sufficient efforts to contact the RSPCA.'


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