Pet owners face cruelty charges after starving dogs ‘ate dog’s head’

09-0565-2''Mansfield Magistrates Court
09-0565-2''Mansfield Magistrates Court

A horrific RSPCA case in which starving pet dogs ate the head of a fourth dog has led to their owners being hauled before the courts.

David Clifton (40) and Rebecca Louise Clifton (34) of Pavilion Gardens, New Houghton, appeared at Mansfield Magistrates’ Court today, Thursday 29th May, to answer to cruelty charges.

The husband and wife had lived on Chapel Terrace, New Houghton, last October when the RSPCA had gone to their house following an anonymous tip-off.

Accompanied by the police and a vet, they found three starving dogs - two Staffordshire Bull Terriers and a Rottweiler.

The young Rottweiler was in a cage, stood in faeces, and was trying to drag the carcass of the third Staffordshire Bull Terrier through the wires. Part of the dog’s head had been eaten.

The private prosecution was brought against the couple by the RSPCA, and outlining the case in court, David 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.

All of the dogs were found to be underweight, especially the Rottweiler, who was less than half the body weight she should have been.

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

Mr Payne said the other dogs had begun to make progress since they were taken off the Cliftons.

The court was told that during an interview with police, 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, with David Clifton working as an assistant manager at a recycling centre, with Rebecca Clifton working as a support worker for vulnerable adults.

The court was told that Mrs 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.

The case has been adjourned until Thursday 26th June, for a probation report to be prepared.

The magistrates has said they would not ‘rule out a custodial sentence at this stage’.