Wellingborough woman avoids jail after allowing 20 pets to become so thin their ribcages were showing

One of Garcia's neglected pets.

One of Garcia's neglected pets.

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A Wellingborough woman who left 20 cats and dogs in her house with skin conditions and so underweight their ribcages were visible has been given a suspended prison sentence.

Maite Garcia, 46, of Nightingale Lane, pleaded guilty to 14 charges of animal cruelty and neglect on the day of a trial last week.

One of Garcia's neglected pets.

One of Garcia's neglected pets.

Yesterday (Wednesday), Wellingborough Magistrates’ Court heard how RSPCA inspectors visited her house on August 5, 2015, after concerns that a cat was too skinny.

But after entering the property they found five dogs and 15 cats to have scaly skin, scabs and sores. They were also underweight, with some completely bald.

There was no evidence of food or water on the floor, with cats overcrowded and on tables and chairs.

Seven cats were found in an unsuitable wooden pen, with diarrhoea on the floor and litter trays saturated with excrement.

In a police interview, Garcia said she had not taken any of the animals to the vet since December 2014.

She said she was aware that her pets had a skin condition and had looked it up on the internet and used shampoos on them.

She also admitted that she knew some of them had eye conditions, but did not take them to the vet as she didn’t think they were suffering.

Garcia maintained that she did not believe they were in pain and said all of the pets were fed two meals a day, spending up to £100 a month on dog food.

When asked by inspectors where the food was, she told them it was in the toilet and they hadn’t looked there – but the door was locked.

Among the pets she owned were male and female bulldogs, boxers, a Persian cat, Bengal cat and ragdoll cat.

The court heard that Garcia had received a payout of about £10,000 after winning an employment tribunal, much of which she used to buy the pets.

She claimed she could not afford to pay for the vets bills, but bought a kitten for £700 prior to the inspector’s visit.

Mitigating, Sean Smith told the court that Garcia was addicted to owning pets to make up for her unhappy home life.

He said: “This is not a case where the defendant is intending to hurt the animals.

“Buying an animal was like a hit, so powerful that she bought another, and another, and another, and in a short space of time she had collected a lot.

“She did not legislate for the cost of the vets bills.

“We are talking about someone who has not thought this through at all, clearly.”

Sentencing, chairman of the bench John Baker handed Garcia an eight-week prison term, suspended for 12 months.

He said: “These are serious offences due to the number of animals and the neglect caused.

“You knew all along that you could not look after them.

“This clearly crosses the custody threshold but we believe that you need some help.”

RSPCA inspector Polly Underwood, who investigated the case, said: “There were so many animals in the house and there were signs of suffering.

“The dogs were thin and with skin conditions, and there was limited food and water available.

“There were also a number of cats at the property which were in a poor condition and as a result had to be removed.

“There were a large number of animals involved in this case and it is so important to get the message across that people should not take on more animals than they can cope with as it may lead to suffering.”

Garcia was given two-week prison sentences to run consecutively for four of the charges, two-week sentences to run concurrently for three of the charges, and one-week sentences to run concurrently for seven charges - all suspended for a year.

She was banned from keeping an animal for 10 years, meaning the three dogs, three cats, five rabbits and one parrot she currently owns must be rehomed.

Garcia was ordered to take part in a 20-day rehabilitation programme and undertake 140 hours of unpaid work.

She must also pay £500 in court costs and a courts surcharge of £80.