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Swinnow: Ten-year ban for owner who ‘starved dog for months’ and confined her in a cage

An elderly dog who weighed half her healthy weight when she was rescued has been given a new lease of life by the RSPCA and her owner handed a suspended prison sentence for animal cruelty offences.

Kimberley Barber was prosecuted by the animal charity after elderly crossbreed Amber was discovered in a state of severe malnutrition and confined to a small cage at the defendant’s West Yorkshire home. Two bearded dragons, who were left in two vivariums without heating and lighting, were also rescued from the property.

Amber was so weak and hungry that she could only stagger around the defendant’s kitchen when she was released from the cage by RSPCA Inspector Demi Hodby.

Now with the care and expertise of staff at RSPCA Halifax, Huddersfield, Bradford and District Branch, she has recovered from her mistreatment and has found a loving new home.

Barber, 47, of Wellstone Avenue, Swinnow, pleaded guilty to two offences under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 and appeared for sentencing at Kirklees Magistrates’ Court on June 26.

Magistrates imposed an eight-week prison sentence for both offences to run concurrently, which was suspended for 12 months, and banned her from keeping animals for 10 years.

The court heard that RSPCA Inspector Demi Hodby first called at Barber’s home on December 10 last year (2023), but the defendant didn’t cooperate and claimed she was a friend staying at the property. On a previous visit by the RSPCA an inspector had posted a welfare assessment form asking her to respond to a report there was an underweight dog at the house.

Inspector Hodby returned to Barber’s home on December 12 and gained entry with a police officer, who heard a dog whimpering in the kitchen. Amber was found in an emaciated condition inside a dog cage.

In a statement presented to the court, the inspector said: “There was no food or water and the bedding inside Amber’s cage was sodden and very smelly. I let her out of the cage and she was staggering around the kitchen.

“Once she was out of the cage she was in constant search for food. There was an empty sealed food container with a small trace of food at the bottom. I gave her what was left and she ate the food very quickly.”

At first the inspector thought the two bearded dragons, one inside a vivarium in the living room, and the other in a vivarium kept in a bedroom, were dead. Neither reptile had access to water or food and their enclosures were lacking UV lighting and heating. 

“Both dragons were lifeless and were flattened out to the bottom of the vivariums to try and get warm. The temperatures inside the vivariums ranged from 12C to 13C and the UV reading was zero,” said the inspector.

Bearded dragons should be kept in an environment where a heat source provides a thermogradient so they can regulate their temperature by moving around from a hot area of around 38C to 42C to a cool spot of between 22C and 26C. They also need lighting so they can detect heat.

The inspector added: “All the animals were removed and taken to the vets for treatment while I posted a voluntary interview letter at the address for the owner. I was later informed by the police that she was located later that day hiding in an upstairs wardrobe.”

A vet who examined Amber said that she was emaciated as she weighed only 16.5kg when an appropriate weight for a dog her size should be between 25kg and 30kg. Blood tests revealed she was suffering from anaemia caused by malnutrition.

The vet said that, judging by her poor body condition, the dog was unlikely to have been fed properly for months.

The vet confirmed that although the bearded dragons were not unhealthy their living conditions had been “entirely unsuitable”.

In mitigation, the court was told that Barber suffered from poor mental health and had a diagnosis of ADHD. She had been struggling to cope after the death of her mother.

The magistrates told the defendant that the animals had suffered “substantial pain and suffering” under her care and they added: “There was prolonged neglect and your evasion caused prolonged suffering. The only reason you have not gone to prison is we have given you credit for your guilty plea and heard about your personal circumstances.”

Barber will also have to complete 15 Rehabilitation Activity days as well as pay a victim surcharge of £154 and costs of £246.

Amber was taken into the care of RSPCA Halifax, Huddersfield, Bradford and District Branch, who placed her with a foster family where she continued her recovery (see picture). Her strength returned and she now tops the scales at a healthy weight of 35.2kg.

Healthy: Amber as she is now.

Now the Boxer type cross, who is 13 years old, has been found loving new owners in West Yorkshire.

Speaking after the sentencing, Inspector Hodby said: “Amber was so close to dying and if we hadn’t gone into the defendant’s home and taken her at the time we did she might not have made it. The poor dog was emaciated and left in squalor in a small cage. It looked as though Barber gave up completely feeding her pets.

“Amber’s weight loss was horrifying, but under the care of our branch she has made a great recovery. She was so thin when she first came into our care that it took a while for her to put weight back on, which is why she was placed with a foster family.”

2 COMMENTS

  1. What a contrast to how the lovely Amber looks now. So angry that she should have suffered this level of neglect. The dragons too. I am not sure about a suspended sentence though, Ms Barber should have to spent the 12 months in a tiny cage with little or no food. See how she likes it!

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