`Vet's 100 dogs lived in filth as wild pack'

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A vet kept 100 dogs in such appalling conditions at herhome that some had no eyes and others had stumps for legs, a court was told yesterday.

Three inches of filth was caked on to the floors at Helen Hein's cottage near Guildford, Surrey, and in-breeding among the dogs had led to hideous deformities, it was claimed. Dr Hein, 69, is charged by the RSPCA with causing unnecessary suffering to the dogs.

Farnham magistrates were told at the start of a five-day trial that Dr Hein bred German shepherds in filthy conditions. Many ran wild and formed packs. They were diseased and deformed. The vet, who denies a total of 19 charges of causing unnecessary suffering to the animals, was a former research veterinary surgeon employed by the Ministry of Agriculture.

She illegally bred dogs for sale at her secluded cottage at Newlands Corner because she was not a licensed breeder.

The charges were brought after RSPCA inspectors visited her home more than half a dozen times in October and November 1994 and March 1995.

Alan Kurtz, for the prosecution, warned magistrates that the evidence they would hear would be very distressing. Inspectors found dogs with missing eyes, sores and cuts and one animal hobbling around with a stump for a back leg. The court was told how every room in the house was covered in excrement and filth and was over-run by dogs which had gone wild.

He said: "Her belief that the dogs should neither be castrated or spayed led to an ever increasing population of these animals. At the time, they were living in deplorable conditions, wholly unsuitable, insanitary, squalid, deep in excrement and urine and other residue.

"The fact that the defendant is a qualified vet only makes the matter worse because it's clear she ought to have known better. I have little doubt she is extremely fond of them, perhaps even obsessed by them. The dogs have become part of her life."

Dr Hein listened intently as the allegations were read out. Mr Kurtz said the dogs had split into packs like wild animals and one pack had taken control of the staircase as their territory. He said that on one visit by the RSPCA it seemed as if one of the sickest dogs had been hidden in a caravan lavatory. "It was in a space 2ft square without ventilation or water. Zinta [the dog] had a large pressure sore at the end of a stump of a leg," Mr Kurtz said.

The court was told how one of the dogs called Cuddly could not use its back legs and had to drag itself around the room.

RSPCA inspector Alison MacVicar described how on several visits she had been stunned at the condition of the animals. "The whole situation was appalling. The dogs were covered in mud and faeces and several newborn litters were on the premises.

"I visited on 2 March, 1995, to make a full inventory. In a back bedroom, I was absolutely appalled. There were three inches of solid faeces on the floor which if you walked on it did not leave a footprint.

"There was no water and the only food I saw was scattered on the faeces. In the kitchen there were between 10 and 15 dogs including puppies. Three dogs were of particular concern, one puppy had a bite wound to its face. This was a fresh bite. It had lost its left eye." Miss MacVicar said she also inspected several outdoor kennels and found similar horrific scenes.

The trial continues.