Owners spared jail after starving canine ate dead dog’s head

editorial image

A New Houghton couple who left four dogs to starve while they went on holiday to Skegness have been spared jail.

RSPCA inspectors were called to the home of Martin David Clifton and Rebecca Louise Clifton after an anonymous call last October.

Inside they found blood splattered over the walls, animals in their own faeces and a dead dog with half its face eaten away by another starving canine.

Photographs seen by Chad, many too shocking to publish, showed the dogs in a severely malnourished condition, with cuts and bite marks to their faces.

Others depicted walls caked with blood and dirt, and an emaciated Rottweiler locked in a small metal cage with the gnawed remains of a Staffordshire Bull Terrier lying dead at its side.

Prosecuting, David Payne said that the dog, called Braken, had been killed fighting with the other two Staffies, Tyke and Dude, that had been left free in the house, and had been eaten by the Rottweiler, called Rox, out of desperation.

He said: “When the RSPCA entered the property the walls were splattered with blood and faeces and the base of the crate was also covered in faeces. The Rottweiler was pulling at the head of the dog and eating it.

“Dogs will resort to cannibalism if they are extremely hungry and this shows that they were not getting enough food.

“The owners caused the dogs to suffer by keeping them in confined spaces and by preventing them from demonstrating normal canine behaviour.”

He added that at the time the surviving dogs were taken into care on October 19th last year, the Rottweiler was less than half its normal weight and the two Staffies were also severely malnourished. After more than six months in care, Rox is still between five and 10 kilos below her ideal weight and it has cost more than £8,500 to care for the animals.

The Cliftons, of Pavilion Gardens, New Houghton, admitted cruelty charges when they appeared before Mansfield Magistrates’ Court on Thursday 29th May, and the case was adjourned until Thursday 26th June for probation reports.

The husband and wife had lived on Chapel Terrace, Newstead Village, last October when the RSPCA had gone to their house, accompanied by the police and a vet.

The private prosecution was brought against the couple by the RSPCA, and outlining the case in court, Mr Payne, explained that the couple had been away in Skegness for a few days when the dogs were found.

It was heard that a neighbour had been coming in to look after the dogs, however, she had been interviewed by police and not prosecuted.

Mr Payne said that the condition of the dogs had been caused by weeks of neglect, rather than just the few days the owners had been on holiday.

A post-mortem on the dead dog found that she had been pregnant at the time of her death.

The court was told that during an interview with police, Martin David Clifton said he had fed the dogs dried food twice a day, and had sought advice on the Rottweiler because she was still thin.

Defending the couple, Sarah Neale, said both had held down responsible jobs - him working as an assistant manager at a recycling centre in Nottingham, and her as a support worker for vulnerable adults.

The court was told that Rebecca Clifton now feared she would lose her job and her home.

Both admitted two counts of causing unnecessary suffering to animals, each failing to address the cause of the dogs being underweight, and confining them to an unsuitable environment.

Speaking in mitigation yesterday, Ms Neale added that the Cliftons had two autistic sons who would not cope if they were sent to prison.

The Cliftons were both sentenced to 12 weeks in prison, suspended for 18 months. They were also banned from keeping dogs for seven years and ordered to pay £2,000 towards prosecution costs.

Speaking after the sentencing, RSPCA investigator Mick Darling told Chad: “I think the sentence reflects the severity of the offences. It was a really difficult case but it sends a clear message to people to take care of their animals and to ensure that their needs are met.”

PICTURED: Martin David Clifton and Rebecca Louise Clifton leaving court yesterday, and photographs of the three surviving dogs shortly after they were rescued.