Dog breeder jailed over dead puppies under stairs

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A dog breeder was jailed for 20 weeks yesterday and banned from keeping animals for life after being found with 15 dead and dying puppies in suitcases in a locked cupboard under her stairs.

Amanda Cheadle, 58, stacked the closed cases on top of one another at her home in Bell Lane, Fletching, near Uckfield, East Sussex, causing the animals starvation, dehydration and suffocation.

Despite efforts to revive the seven live puppies, two had to be put down at the property while another was put down at an RSPCA shelter.

She was found guilty of nine charges of causing unnecessary suffering and neglect between August 2008 and February this year following a four-day trial at Lewes Magistrates' Court last month.

Cheadle appeared for sentencing at the same court yesterday, where she was told she would serve 20 weeks in prison for each of the charges, to run concurrently.

Chairman of the bench Chris Bell said: "We think this is an appropriate way to deal with you because of the prolonged suffering you caused to the animals in your care, which caused the deaths of eight puppies, and because of the conditions in which you kept the animals for a long period."

During the trial, magistrates were told that a member of the public raised the alarm about the squalid conditions the dogs were kept in at her farmhouse where she ran a smallholding.

When officers visited, they found 16 adult dogs and 10 puppies in a double garage in virtual darkness with limited ventilation and hazards such as an armchair with springs protruding.

Food and water bowls were placed on top of compacted faeces which was inches deep in places and appeared contaminated, and there was nowhere for the dogs to rest or sleep.

Cheadle gave up ownership of the 10 puppies and six dogs, leaving her with 10 dogs which the RSPCA revisited to check on any improvements.

On one of their subsequent visits dogs were heard whining and two suitcases were found locked in a cupboard under the stairs containing the dead and dying puppies. The court was told that the four puppies in one case had been dead between two and 20 hours and were about three days old.

The other one in a smaller case was considerably smaller and had been dead "some time".

Magistrates concluded that Cheadle intentionally killed or intended to kill the puppies by placing them in the suitcases, thus causing starvation, dehydration and suffocation.

Also found at the house was a ginger kitten with an eye condition, which they said any reasonable owner would have sought veterinary advice for.

During mitigation the court heard that Cheadle was of previous good character and had no relevant convictions.

Magistrates were told she was sectioned under the Mental Health Act around the time the offences took place.

Defending her, Lucinda Dore said: "She now accepts that she perhaps behaved in a way that a person of sound mind may not have done."

She added that Cheadle also felt the RSPCA had not given her the support she needed.

Speaking afterwards, RSPCA inspector Rachel Bell said: "It was one of the most harrowing situations I've ever been involved with.

"There were a number of Collie dogs living in revolting conditions confined to a garage and two litters of puppies that had been confined to a suitcase and left to die."