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Owner of 'squalid' kennels is fined and banned for 10 years

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: November 10, 2012

Villagers who united to expose the squalor at a Devon kennels have expressed relief after the owner was banned from keeping dogs.

Leon Smith, 63, was prohibited from keeping, breeding, trading in or transporting dogs for ten years after shocked welfare officials found animals living in horrendous conditions on a Dartmoor smallholding.

Neighbours, who complained that the plaintive cries of the collies kept them awake at night, had tipped off the authorities that the animals were shivering in an open pen, caked in mud and filth.

One of the locals prominent in a three-year-campaign to highlight the issue, told the Western Morning News that more than 80% of the community had signed a petition calling for action and said they were "very, very pleased" by the sentence.

The woman, who asked not to be named, said dogs had escaped and been found running wild on the A30, adding: "It has brought trauma to all the locals – the dogs cry all night long and people can't get any sleep. In my opinion, he seems not to understand how to treat animals and we are pleased."

Smith, of Castleford House, Okehampton, admitted failing to provide a suitable environment for 13 collie dogs on February 14, 2011 and nine on February 16, 2011.

He also admitted six offences of failing to dispose of animal carcasses properly, which related to rotting animals left for the dogs to eat.

Despite promises to improve the conditions in which he kept the 13 collies on land at Meldon, he left them with little food and water and living in their own muck. He also kept them in tiny cages in the back of an old police van with no food or water in the middle of the summer with a maggot-infested sheep carcass rotting alongside them.

Smith has twice been banned from keeping sheep or cattle and a judge has now extended this to dogs.

Judge Barry Cotter, QC, delayed sentence for six months in May to allow him the chance to improve conditions for the dogs and so avoid a ban. But yesterday, at Exeter Crown Court, he lost patience and fined him a total of £800 with £500 costs and prohibited him from keeping, breeding, trading in or transporting dogs for ten years.

He told Smith: I gave you the chance to show you were capable of looking after dogs properly – you have thrown it back in my face. Keeping dogs in a van with a rotting sheep carcass in the middle of summer is wholly unacceptable and to do so during the period of a deferred sentence is quite remarkable.

"It proves beyond doubt you are incapable of having the care of dogs and providing them with the proper welfare."

Smith is now being investigated by Devon County Council over his treatment of horses after officials allegedly found ponies and foals in ploughed fields with nothing to eat or drink at Rivermead Farm, Bridestowe, and Boasley Cross, near Halwill Junction.

The ruling is likely to raise objections to plans submitted last month for a new kennels in the area.

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