Woman jailed over neglect of 191 dogs

A woman who kept 191 dogs in "pitiful" conditions in Devon has been jailed.

Diana Curtis, 66, of Peters Marland, had kept the dogs in crates and cages in a remote field near Chittlehamholt and in kennels near Chulmleigh Cross, Exeter Crown Court heard.

Curtis had previously pleaded guilty to seven counts of causing unnecessary suffering to animals.

She was jailed for 25 months and handed a lifetime ban from owning animals.

Two animals had to be put down, while others were found with scars, infected wounds and missing ears, probably caused by fighting, the court was told.

The RSPCA said three other puppies also died because of their ill health.

Sentencing, Judge James Adkin said pictures showed the dogs were in "a truly pitiful condition".

"You put yourself and your own feelings before the animals causing them considerable suffering," he said.

Defence barrister Nigel Wraith said Curtis was "clearly overwhelmed" by the number of dogs she had.

He said the animals were costing her up to £300 a week in food.

Cramped conditions

The court heard Curtis moved 99 dogs to a remote field with no water or electricity supply near Chittlehamholt.

Other dogs were kept in kennels in Chulmleigh Cross.

Local farmer Bill Bowen tipped off police because of the noise of the barking animals, the court was told.

RSPCA inspectors said they found dogs kept in cramped conditions standing on top of one another to drink water.

Curtis later turned up in a lorry with another 92 dogs inside, the court heard.

The court heard she had already been banned from keeping animals after being convicted in December 2023 of ill-treating horses, chickens and ducks.

For those offences, she was jailed for 16 weeks, suspended for 12 months, and told to pay £10,000 costs.

Bill Bowen
Farmer Bill Bowen raised the alarm to emergency services [BBC]

Mr Bowen said he spent more than two hours on the phone to police after he and his daughter discovered the dogs in the field.

He said it was a shocking sight to see with many of the dogs looking ill.

"Three days later it snowed really heavily and a lot of those dogs would have died in that snow," Mr Bowen said.

'Please seek help'

The RSPCA said it was essential for people to make sure they can care for their animals.

"We'd encourage anyone who is struggling with animal numbers to please seek help and take up support offered to make sure animals don't suffer," it said.

Most of the surviving dogs have been rehomed, the charity said.

Rescued dogs with their new owners
Some of the rescued dogs were treated by RSPCA staff in St Columb [BBC]

Among the dogs who were rescued and rehomed was Benson, who was rehabilitated at the RSPCA centre in St Columb.

Keith Lawson, Benson's new owner, said he was in a "really appalling" state when he was rescued.

"Benson had no fur on his stomach, no fur round his muzzle, you can't believe that a puppy would be left like that or treated like that," Mr Lawson said.

Fizz was another of the rescued dogs rehomed after spending time with the RSPCA in Cornwall.

Fizz's new owner Claire Cook said: "It was a sad start but she’ll now have a lovely happy future."

Follow BBC Devon on X (formerly Twitter), Facebook and Instagram. Send your story ideas to spotlight@bbc.co.uk.

Related internet links