Hucknall single mum ‘in a dark place’ allowed pet dog to suffer

A young single mum from Hucknall caused “extraordinary” cruelty to her pet dog at a time when her personal life was in turmoil, a court heard.

Ashton Richards (21), of Green Close, was sentenced to 12 weeks in prison, suspended for a year, after she admitted failing to feed or care for the pet properly.

The starved dog, a two-year-old female shih tzu named Peggy, was found, emaciated and significantly under-weight, in a kennel-type shed at the bottom of Richards’s garden.

The chairman of the Bench at Nottingham Magistrates’ Court, Mr LJ Miller, said the sustained level of suffering Peggy was subjected to was “shocking” and added: “The consequences of neglect were unacceptable”.

However, the court was told that, at the time, Richards was “in a very dark place” in terms of her mental wellbeing.

“She became pregnant at the age of 19 and her mother told her to leave home or have an abortion,” explained Mr Paul McLeod (defending).

“She chose to have the baby and leave, but then her partner was sent to jail, leaving her in a very stressful situation.

“In a nutshell, she was on her own, abandoned by her mother, with her partner in prison. She couldn’t cope.

“When the dog snapped at her baby one day, she decided to keep the animal outside. She now accepts that she could have taken more care of it. She is remorseful.”

Richards, who is the sole carer of her child, pleaded guilty to two charges of causing the dog unnecessary suffering and of failing to protect it from pain and disease between 23rd December last year and 3rd February this year.

Paul Wright (prosecuting) said there was “no suggestion of deliberate cruelty”, but the dog had suffered “prolonged malnutrition and starvation” over a period of six weeks.

When the RSPCA investigated, after receiving complaints, they found Peggy in a shed 2.4 metres wide and 1.8 metres high with a hole cut in the front.

“The animal was in an appalling state,” said Mr Wright.

“Her coat was matted, all of her bones could be felt and when picked up, she felt empty. There was no evidence of food or water.”

When treated by a vet, Peggy was found to weigh 2.75 kilos. A dog of her size and age would have been expected to weigh between five and 7.5 kilos.

“Her poor bodily condition meant her coat had to be completely shorn off on welfare grounds,” said Mr Wright. “She was in a lot of discomfort.”

Mr Miller described the offence as “extremely serious”. “A small, vulnerable dog was placed outside in a shed in the depths of winter,” he said.

As well as the suspended sentence, Richards was banned from owning or keeping a dog for 10 years. She was also ordered to pay £200 towards RSPCA and legal costs, plus a victim surcharge of £80.

However, she was allowed to keep a pet cat, Treacle, that she owned, even though the RSPCA told the court they had “no confidence in her ability to keep any animal” because they found her house to be in an unhygienic mess.