Owners in court after keeping large dogs in their small London flat
Two “hoarders” have been handed suspended prison sentences and banned from keeping pets for life after neglecting and starving four large dogs who they locked up in their small London flat.
Shuman Rashid and Suzanne Wimbledon were prosecuted by the RSPCA after failing to take care of Zsa Zsa, a Great Dane, a Neopolitan Mastiff called Kali, a husky-type dog called Rocky and Staffie cross.
One of the canines was found in an emaciated condition while another was muzzled and penned inside a small cage.
A court heard that the pair, who were found guilty of neglect, underfed the dogs because they didn’t want them to defecate in their flat, which was littered with boxes and bags, leaving little room for the animals to move in the already cramped conditions.
One of the dogs, Zsa Zsa, died in a PDSA hospital on March 7 last year after she collapsed in an emaciated state.
The animal charity was informed there were other underweight dogs at an address on Eastney Street, Woolwich on 16 March.
RSPCA inspector Natasha Wallis and animal rescue officers Brian Milligan and Portia Mearns attended the flat with the police.
Rashid said he had rehomed Kali to a new owner in January 2022, but Rocky and Kiko were seized by police into the care of the RSPCA.
Rocky was found in an emaciated condition and could barely walk, while Kiko was muzzled and penned inside a small cage.
Rashid, 48, of Oakley Lane, Lambeth, pleaded guilty to five offences under the Animal Welfare Act 2006.
Wimbledon, 43, of Eastney Street, Woolwich, pleaded guilty to three offences under the Animal Welfare Act 2006.
When appearing for sentencing at Thames Magistrates’ Court on 19 January, Rashid and Wimbledon were handed 12-week prison sentences which were suspended for 12 months.
In her witness statement, RPSCA inspector Wallis said: “The small flat appeared to be that of a hoarder’s property. There were multiple boxes stacked on top of one another, with little room to manoeuvre inside.
“When I stroked Rocky along his back and sides, I could easily feel the bones along his spine, hips and rib cage indicating he was significantly underweight. He appeared wobbly and weak when walking. Kiko had little space to move inside a small cage which only contained a blanket.”
Inspector Harriet Daliday said in her statement to the court that she was told by a PDSA vet that Rashid had told her that he “did not feed his dogs the correct amount to stop them defecating inside the flat”.
Three of the dogs in the case were emaciated and the vet at the PDSA New Cross Animal Hospital presented evidence that the pair failed to take heed of advice as the condition of the animals deteriorated.
She said that both Zsa Zsa and Kali registered the lowest possible body condition score (one out of five) during many months of the PDSA’s involvement with the defendants.
“Kali was never a healthy weight from August 2018 until January 2022, when she was reportedly rehomed. While Zsa Zsa recorded the lowest possible body condition score between July 2021 up to March 2022 when she died from emaciation,” said the vet.
The pair were given frequent instructions to increase the food intake of both dogs, but claimed it “made the dogs produce more faeces”.
“They frequently went against veterinary advice and frequently missed arranged appointments to check the weights of both dogs. The dogs attended all their appointments with coats on, even during the summer months, presumably to hide the fact they were severely underweight,” added the vet.
When Rocky was examined after being taken in by the RSPCA, the vet said she could feel his spine, pelvis and ribs. He weighed 17.3kg (38.1lb) and his body condition score was also one out of five, meaning he was emaciated.
In mitigation, it was claimed the pair had done their “incompetent best for the four dogs”. The court was told that both suffer from disabilities; Rashid from an industrial back injury, while Wimbledon is deaf.
The magistrates said it was an “appalling case of animal cruelty”, although they added that the defendants’ early guilty pleas meant they could suspend their custodial sentences. As well as the life-time bans from keeping animals, Rashid and Wimbledon were told to each complete 100 hours of unpaid work and pay court costs of £300 and a victim surcharge of £128.
Rocky and Kiko have both recovered from their ordeal in RSPCA care and will be rehomed soon.
Speaking after the sentencing, inspector Wallis said: “It was daily torture for these poor dogs to be kept in this flat - they were being starved in what appeared to be a hoarder’s property. Three of the dogs became emaciated and the other was confined to a cage.
“The defendants were repeatedly told to increase the dogs’ intake of food, but they didn’t and that is why Zsa Zsa died.
“But not only did they physically suffer from being starved but also mentally as they had no stimulation as they were confined in a small property for days on end, which would have been extremely depressing for the dogs.
“Since they have come into our care, Rocky (pictured now) has put on weight and has returned to a healthy condition. Kiko was a nervous and anxious dog, but thanks to the care and attention of staff at our animal centre he has really come out of himself.”