The founder of an animal rescue charity has been banned from keeping animals for 10 years after allowing her pet dogs and cats to suffer in filth.
Dorothy Harland of Burnside Road, Harrogate appeared before magistrates in the town yesterday after neglecting her three dogs and four cats.
RSPCA inspectors said the filthy house on Scargill Road, Harrogate, was the worst house they had seen in 20 years of working for the charity, adding that police officers had to use gas masks to enter the property and free the pets trapped inside.
RSPCA Insp Dave Holgate said: “It was disgusting, it really was.
“Someone who works with an animal charity should really know better. Somebody working with animals knows what is right and what is wrong, and that is wrong.”
Harland, is a founding member of the Emergency Animal Rescue Service (EARS) based at West Tanfield near Ripon.
She had advocated adopting rescue dogs and collected charity donations at fundraising events across the district, while her own three dogs and four cats were left suffering at home.
The RSPCA was alerted to the animals’ suffering by the police on December 14, 2013, after they had been called to the house by a Yorkshire Water contractor investigating a leak at the property.
Police were so overwhelmed by the stench of the property when they opened the door they were unable to stay in the house for more than a few minutes without breathing apparatus.
PC Raheel Akram told the RSPCA “It was astonishing the level of dirt and I had never seen a premises in such an appalling state.”
Prosecuting, Andrew Davidson said: “The conditions had built up over a significant period of time.
“She allowed her attachment to her animals as pets to come before their need to have proper living conditions.”
Police officers left the door open and Charlie, a German-Shepherd cross, escaped the house. PC Akram said: “He was so overwhelmed at being let outside he ran in circles around the garden.”
Bruno, an elderly cross-breed dog, also tried to leave the house. Police said he was falling over, unable to walk and searching rubbish bags for food.
Vets had to put down the 16-year-old dog who had suffered a stroke three days before he was rescued.
The court heard that Harland was aware of his illness but had been waiting to get paid so she could afford to take him to the vet.
She pleaded guilty to failing to protect the pet from pain, injury and suffering at Harrogate Magistrates Court on April 9, along with four other counts of animal neglect.
When the RSPCA Inspectors arrived at the property to collect the animals they found a third dog, a saluki named Jack who was kept in a rusty cage too small for him to stand up in with no food or water in sight, along with four cats.
The court heard that Harland was suffering from depression and had been living in the appalling conditions alongside her animals.
Defending Nick Woodhouse said: “She doesn’t have close family or friends so no-one visited the house.
“Her animals seem to have been a crutch for her, she says animals are her reason for getting up in the morning.”
Magistrates were told that any disqualification order would prevent Harland from continuing her work with EARS, a charity which has rescued over 130 dogs.
Her friend and colleague at the charity, Margaret Wells told the court: “She does a great job and I don’t think we could do it without her.”
Chief Magistrate Michael Poole told Harland: “From your charity work you were aware that your care was seriously lacking. The RSPCA say it is one of the worst they have seen in years and they were appalled by the state of yours and the animals living accommodation.”
Mr Poole disqualified Harland from keeping animals for ten years and she cannot apply to the court for the ban to be removed for at least five years.
She was placed under a 12 month supervision order and ordered to carry out 100 hours of unpaid work and to pay £200 of the £4000 the RSPCA have spent on bringing the case the court, along with a £60 surcharge.
Jack, Charlie and all four cats; Murphy, Molly, Polly and Dolly, have since been rehomed.