A man and woman from Carmarthenshire have been handed a suspended custody sentence after 48 dogs and a cat were found in unsuitable conditions - with 22 dogs suffering with matted coats and 17 suffering from skin disease.

When some of the animals were first seen - in one upstairs bedroom - RSPCA Keith Hogben said that the smell of urine and faeces “was one of the worst” he had smelt in his near-24 years with the RSPCA.

Many of the dogs were kept in cages, some stacked on top of each other - although others were roaming the house. One dog was kept in a small rodent cage and was continually spinning in the cage - some of the dogs had water provided by rabbit bottles attached to the cages.

RSPCA case
The dogs ranged from poodles, Japanese chins, rough collies, Pekingese, chihuahuas, shih tzus and a lot of crosses between these breeds, with one RSPCA rescuer having trouble identifying the breeds due to their matted coats. (RSPCA)

The dogs ranged from poodles, Japanese chins, rough collies, Pekingese, chihuahuas, shih tzus and a lot of crosses between these breeds, with one RSPCA rescuer having trouble identifying the breeds due to their matted coats.

Beverly Gilson, 64, and John Howard, 72, both of Trallwyn, Abernant, Carmarthen appeared at Swansea Crown Court on Tuesday 21 November. They both pleaded guilty to four offences under the Animal Welfare Act.

One of the offences related to the failure of ensuring that the 48 dogs and one cat’s needs were met.

The other three offences related to unnecessary suffering where Gilson and Howard failed to provide vet care and attention for their conditions - these were:

• Causing 22 dogs with matted coats to suffer

• Causing 17 dogs with skin disease to suffer

• Causing three dogs to suffer suffer due to poor socialisation and living in an unsuitable environment

They were sentenced on Thursday 21 December and were both handed a 15 week custody sentence suspended for nine months. They were ordered to carry out 15 days RAR and 50 hours of unpaid work. They were disqualified from keeping all animals for five years. They were each ordered to pay £400 each.

In mitigation, on behalf of Gilson, the court heard that she apologises for what happened and is remorseful. It was heard that she was caring for her husband at the time who had a number of ailments before he passed away, and that “it got on top of her”. She also provides care to her two sons.

In mitigation on behalf of Howard, the court heard that he had “let matters get out of hand” with no deliberate intention and had failed to take any steps to prevent it from happening. He was dependent on Gilson and her late husband - who was his cousin.

It was also heard that they were not keeping the dogs for commercial purposes.

RSPCA dogs carmarthenshire
RSPCA officers found 48 dogs and a cat neglected in unsuitable conditions, with many suffering (RSPCA)

In a written statement - provided to the court - from RSPCA inspector Keith Hogben, it was heard that the conditions at the property came to light following the sudden death of Gilson’s husband and the RSPCA were called to attend by the police on 29 October 2022. The animals were removed on 31 October 2022 under the guidance of a vet.

Gilson was the owner of the animals with Howard also living at the property.

On his first visit, inspector Hogben said they were invited into the property by Gilson via the back door.

“I could hear a large amount of dog's inside and when entering the kitchen area found there to be many dog's kept in cages, some stacked on top of each other, other dogs were running loose in the house,” he said.

“The conditions in the kitchen area were in a poor state with many of the dog's having matted coats and no bedding in their cages, some dog's had water provided by rabbit bottles attached to the cages.

“The smell of dog faeces and urine was overpowering, the room was dark with very little natural light coming in and the dogs were barking constantly.

“I noticed one dog in particular being kept in a small rodent cage and this dog was continually spinning in the cage, there was little room for anything else in this cage.

“Many of the dog's in these cages had faeces present that had not been cleaned out and there was faeces trodden into the floor of the kitchen area.”

Another one of the dogs at the home (RSPCA)

He went from the kitchen to the living room where several more dogs were found in cages in similar conditions as found in the kitchen. Here there was no carpet and a “strong smell of dog faeces and urine.”

In three of the upstairs rooms he found dogs to be present - two of these rooms were three bearded collie type dogs. In the third bedroom there were five dogs in cages in similar conditions to downstairs. Inspector Hogben added that there were several dogs loose in this bedroom with “obvious matted coats”.

“The smell of urine and faeces in this third bedroom was one of the worst I have smelt in my near-24 years with the RSPCA,” he said. “There was no window open and when I opened the door to this bedroom I was taken aback by the smell, it made me cough and retch.”

A scene from inside the house (RSPCA)

He explained to Gilson and Howard that the conditions were unacceptable and many of the dogs were in a suffering state and a vet needed to examine the dogs. He said he would return a couple of days later on 31 October 2022.

On this date inspector Hogben returned with a vet and RSPCA deputy chief inspector Gemma Cooper.

Inspector Hogben said: “Many of the dog's from upstairs on my last visit were now downstairs and there were still a large amount of dogs in cages. The smell of urine, faeces was again overpowering even though Beverly Gilson had opened windows.”

The vet informed him that the animals needed to be removed. Throughout that day each dog was brought out of the property and examined by the vet.

“Many of these dogs were in a poor condition with heavily matted coats, overgrown nails and some had eye issues, there was also an unpleasant smell coming from the dogs,” said inspector Hogben.

In total 39 dogs were signed over to the RSPCA for rehoming - with Hope Rescue and The Dogs Trust attending to assist with 21 of the dogs.

Gilson and Howard decided they wanted to keep nine dogs and the cat - but would voluntarily allow the RSPCA to remove them from the property as they did not want police attendance. Sadly the cat - who was very poorly - was put to sleep on welfare grounds and two dogs were also put to sleep on veterinary advice - with permission sought from the owner.

In a written statement from DCI Cooper she said when she entered the property “the foul smell hit me and as I got even further into the property, my eyes started to water.

She added: “I have been an RSPCA Inspector for 12 years and I can’t remember the last time a property made my eyes water like this.

“The house was extremely chaotic with dog barking and running everywhere. Near to the front door was a heavily matted, white, toy poodle type dog standing on a table that Beverly Gilson was in the middle of grooming. I could see fleas crawling all over her and she was trembling. Her skin looked pink and she appeared extremely uncomfortable.

“There were approximately 18 dogs in the first room, some free roaming and some in cages. There were puppy pads placed on the floor and inside the crates; urine was seen on many of the pads as well as on the floor of the house.

“Dog faeces, some that had been trod in by other dogs, was also seen on the floor throughout the property.

“The dogs in the crates had no access to a comfortable resting area or a separate toileting area and shockingly, they had access to water through a rabbit drinking bottle.

“In the kitchen area there were approximately 30 dogs, again some free roaming and many in crates. Many of the dogs were very nervous and others jumped up at the crate, craving attention. I noted one dog was spinning in her crate.”

DCI Cooper added that many of the dogs “were so badly matted” she had trouble identifying their breed.

“One dog was clearly in pain, screaming as the veterinary surgeon examined him and the screaming went right through me. It was awful to listen to,” she said.

The dogs that were signed over into RSPCA care and other charities have now been happily rehomed.

Following the case inspector Hogben said: “Sadly they got in over their heads with too many dogs in their home - and failed to see that many of the dogs were left suffering with a range of different issues and were being kept in unsuitable conditions.

“Thankfully these dogs have now been able to have a second chance of happiness in their new homes following veterinary care and attention. We’d like to thank the Dyfed Powys Police and also The Dogs Trust and Hope Rescue for taking 21 dogs for rehoming.”

One dog was returned to his owner after he had been in the care of Gilson, with the others (17) in RSPCA care and were rehomed.

Seven dogs - which were signed over to the RSPCA a week before the hearing - will now be rehomed.