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Dogs 'kept in airless rooms'

A FORMER zookeeper kept animals in filthy conditions at her private fortress, a court was told yesterday.

Joanne Willies-Williams, 45, a former wildlife park owner, subjected monkeys and dogs to 'manifest cruelty' at her Rodborough Fort home near Stroud, Gloucester.

Animal welfare experts were shocked by the conditions they found when they raided the mock fort, Cirencester magistrates court was told.

Nine monkeys were confined in cages without proper facilities and a further six were running loose in dangerous conditions in a former shower block, said Miss Anwen Walker, prosecuting for the RSPCA.

A total of 11 dogs - a poodle and 10 Chihuahuas - were without water in airless rooms in stinking conditions, she said.

Miss Willies-Williams and her business partner James McKenzie Davidson, 51, of Langport, Somerset, plead not guilty to a number of animal cruelty charges.

They also deny keeping a peregrine falcon and a red- tailed buzzard without proper authority.

Neil Forbes, a vet, said the Chihuahua dogs were in poor shape and some were 'dejected and frightened'. He added: 'They were in a cold, unventilated room strewn with excrement and there was no evidence of water.'

The court heard that in March this year the two defendants faced similar cruelty charges involving the Merlin's Park Animal Centre in North Wales and were acquitted of all allegations.

The trial continues today.