Family on trial as RSPCA condemns conditions at animal rescue sanctuary

The Oxford Times: The scene at Crunchy’s in January last year The scene at Crunchy’s in January last year

A FAMILY ran a charity animal rescue sanctuary in conditions RSPCA officials described as the worst they had ever seen, a court heard yesterday.

Inspectors who raided Crunchy’s Animal Rescue found horses, ponies, dogs, rabbits, goats, ducks, chickens, pigs and turkeys living in mud and their own faeces and urine, with little or no food or clean water, Bicester Magistrates’ Court heard.

Some animals were found in areas containing rubbish, bundles of barbed wire, metal frames from burned mattresses and rusting cars, and the body of a dead horse was found covered by the back of a pick-up truck on the ground, it was alleged.

Angela Russell, her father, brother, three children, niece and carer are all jointly charged with 16 counts of animal welfare offences relating to the centre.

Jonathan Coode, prosecuting for the RSPCA, said: “It is our case that for years none of the defendants did anything to improve the conditions and when the RSPCA finally stepped in, some of the worst conditions that most of the witnesses have ever experienced were discovered.

“One of the most shocking aspects of this case is a dog cowering in a cage. In front of it is effectively a termite mound, almost taller than it, of piled-up faeces.”

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He said an area where four puppies were found living among rubbish in a caravan had “the most appalling stench” of faeces and urine.

A post mortem examination on the dead horse found it had died of Yew tree poisoning but it also had bits of tarpaulin and white pieces of rubbish in its stomach.

A shallow-dug area near where the horse was found led the RSPCA to suspect the Russells were planning to secretly bury it.

Mr Coode told the court: “The case involves Crunchy’s rescue centre, set up in about 2006, with four trustees.

“We say the 16 charges before the court are essentially sample allegations involving 50 of the 95 animals that were seized over the weekend of 20, 21 and 22 January last year.

“There could have been many, many more charges but those instructing me for the RSPCA have distilled the charges into the sample counts.”

He said matters went back to 2008 when concerns were first raised at the situation at Crunchy’s, in Longworth.

“On more than one occasion witnesses, from whom we will hear, have had dealings with those at Crunchy’s and warnings were given about standards of care of the animals.

“I’m referring to the circumstances in which animals were being kept there and lack of veterinary care; in the case of equines, the lack of care from a farrier.

“It’s the opinion of the farrier that some of the equines had not been treated for months, if not years, causing them to rock back on their heels.

“Dogs were kept in kennels in which the floor was covered in mud and faeces and urine, with inadequate beddng, inadequate food, inadequate water. The water that was in many of those kennels was filthy.”

As well as the horse, inspectors also found a dead rabbit.

A number of the animals had skin conditions which had not been treated and a shih-tzu dog with an eye condition, a duck and a turkey had to be put down.

Angela Russell, 44, her father Frederick Russell, 81, her brother Peter Russell, 40, her children Robert, Louise and Kirsty Russell, 24, 22 and 20, all of Faringdon Road, Longworth, deny all the charges.

Her niece, Abigail McHugh, 20, of Pendennis Road, Swindon, and Angela Russell's carer, Daniel Bunyan, 24, of The Court, Abingdon, have also pleaded not guilty to all charges.

The three-week trial, before District Judge Tim Pattinson, continues.

THE CHARGES

All eight are charged jointly as follows:
 

  • 1 Causing unnecessary suffering to a male golden retriever dog by failing to provide adequate nutrition between December 20, 2011 and January 20, 2012
  • 2 Causing unnecessary suffering to the same male golden retriever dog by failing to provide adequate parasitic control between the same dates
  • 3 Causing unnecessary suffering to a male brindle mastiff dog by failing to provide veterinary care regarding multiple toe infections between 17 and 20 January 2012
  • 4 Causing unnecessary suffering to the same male brindle mastiff dog by failing to provide adequate nutrition between 17 and 20 January 2012
  • 5 Causing unnecessary suffering to a black female German Shepherd type dog by failing to provide veterinary care regarding a skin condition between December 20, 2011 and January 20, 2012
  • 6 Causing unnecessary suffering to a female Staffordshire bull terrier type dog by failing to provide veterinary care regarding a skin condition between December 20, 2011 and January 20, 2012
  • 7 Causing unnecessary suffering to the same female Staffordshire bull terrier dog by confining the animal in a small wire mesh cage open to the elements and cold with inadequate provision of food and water between December 20, 2011 and January 20, 2012
  • 8 Causing unnecessary suffering to a black and white female Shih-tzu dog by failing to provide veterinary care in respect of an eye condition between December 20, 2011 and January 20, 2012
  • 9 Causing unnecessary suffering to four equines by failing to provide adequate farriery and foot care in respect of overgrown hooves between December 20, 2011 and January 20, 2012
  • 10 Causing unnecessary suffering to a white female duck by failing to provide veterinary care in respect of a fractured femur contrary to s.4 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006, between January 13 and 20, 2012
  • 11 Causing unnecessary suffering to a turkey by failing to provide veterinary care in respect of lameness, pain and inflammation in the legs between January 13 and 20, 2012
  • 12 Confining 16 dogs in 11 kennels which were malodorous and filthy with faeces and urine with inadequate dry lying areas and bedding and without provision of clean fresh water and as such failing to take such steps as were reasonable in all the circumstances to ensure that the needs of the animals were met between January 6 and 20, 2012
  • 13 Accommodating five equines inadequately in areas excessively muddy, filthy with inadequate dry lying areas and bedding with access to hazardous items and inadequate access to grazing and access only to dirty water and as such failing to take such steps as were reasonable in all the circumstances to ensure that the needs of the animals were met between January 6 and 20, 2012
  • 14 Confining 13 rabbits in an overcrowded manner in ramshackle hutches which were wet and dirty with accumulated urine and faeces with inadequate food and bedding and no water and as such failing to take such steps as were reasonable in all the circumstances to ensure that the needs of the animals were met between January 6 and 20, 2012
  • 15 Confining four puppies in a caravan in which space was restricted due to accumulated rubbish and hazardous items and which was dirty with no water, bedding or heat source and as such failing to take such steps as were reasonable in all the circumstances to ensure that the needs of the animals were met between January 6 and 20, 2012
  • 16 Confining two goats in a horse box (trailer) which was knee deep in faeces and without food or water, the trailer being damaged and therefore hazardous to the animals and as such failing to take such steps as were reasonable in all the circumstances to ensure that the needs of the animals were met between January 6 and 20, 2012

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