Sunday, 21 January 2018
AN award-winning cat breeder has been banned from keeping animals for three years after RSPCA officers found more than 60 neglected cats in “chaotic” conditions at her home.
Watson, 56, runs Owlsdene Bengals in Bix, where she has raised dozens of Bengal cats over 14 years.
But an inspection by the RSPCA in February found the property in a sordid state with cats roaming the “unhygienic” house and outbuildings.
Food had been left lying around and many of the animals were suffering from illnesses including cat flu and eye infections. Seven cats were so unwell that they had to be put to sleep.
Richmond-Watson appeared at Reading Magistrates’ Court on Friday after pleading guilty to failing to protect the animals under her care.
She was given a three-year deprivation and disqualification order and a 12-week prison sentence suspended for a year.
She was also ordered to complete 60 hours of unpaid work and to pay a £115 victim surcharge and £10,000 costs.
The court heard how inspectors visited the house with police and vets after concerns were raised about the welfare of a number of Bengal cats which she had bred to sell.
They found evidence of “extreme neglect”, including a lack of an appropriate and effective disease control
A total of 64 cats was removed from the property over three days.
Three animals had to be put down at the scene and another four in the days afterwards due to health and behavioural issues.
More than 30 of the surviving cats have been rehomed but another 19 remain in RSPCA care.
RSPCA inspector Rachel Smith said: “When we arrived there were lots and lots of cats just roaming the house and the outbuildings, which had been built for breeding in completely unhygienic conditions.
“It was chaotic with clutter and rubbish and there was food lying around — a totally unsuitable environment for these cats to be living in.
“Sadly, the owner was just not providing proper care for these cats, leading to some extreme neglect.
“She may have had the best of intentions but the reality was the animals were suffering and we had to act to ensure there was no further suffering.”
Sean Smith, defending, said Richmond-Watson had been suffering from cancer and had undergone treatment including chemotherapy which had left her at a “low ebb” and meant she was unable to look after the cats properly.
He said she had made substantial changes to the property following the inspection and it was recently found to be “adequate”.
Sentencing Richmond-Watson, Judge Shomon Khan said: “There’s no doubt this has been life-changing for you.
“What comes out of all the references and from the work you’ve done to your home is how committed you are to cats and how much they mean to you. That makes this a sorry affair.
“I think about how untenable this situation was for the cats. It got out of control, no doubt due to your medical problems.”
Ms Smith said: “Thanks must go to those who brought this cat breeder to our attention.
“Members of the public are our eyes and ears and with their help with can continue to improve animal welfare.”
Alice Potter, cat welfare expert for the RSPCA, said: “This case shows why it is so important that anyone wanting to welcome a new kitten into their life needs to be careful when choosing.
“There are many unsuitable breeders out there and it is vital that new owners take the time to make sure their new pet has not come from one of them otherwise they may end up with all kinds of health and behavioural issues down the line.
“Better still, we would always encourage prospective pet owners to think about adopting one of the many cats in our rescue centres, which so desperately need and deserve a new home.”
Richmond-Watson bought her first pair of Bengal cats in 2002 and began to breed them soon afterwards.
Her brood grew to more than 70 animals of varying colours and markings which were shown regularly in
She won various awards and titles with one cat called Mr Marbles, who was named best Bengal alter in the world in 2012 by the International Cat Association.
Kittens bred by Richmond-Watson were featured in the Channel 4 programme Animals In The Womb in 2008.
She will be able to appeal for her ban to be lifted after one year. Richmond-Watson’s solicitor said that she intended to sell her home.
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