Two charity workers who kept animals in squalid conditions at their rescue centre called destitute pets have walked free from court.
Jean Gibbons, 59, and Lance Hebditch 35, abused animals in their care by leaving them in “filthy and disgusting” conditions at their home, a court heard.
The friends ran a charity rescue service from their home in Wolverhampton where they looked after cats, dogs, cockatoos and a rabbits.
But RSPCA investigators who visited the premises in November 2011 found the animals there being mistreated and in appalling conditions.
Wolverhampton Magistrates were told inspectors found piles of faeces, dirty or no water for animals, rotting food and little or no bedding.
Animals were also forced to stay in cramped pens – sometimes in complete darkness – and one dog was found in “significant pain”.
Gibbons previously pleaded guilty to eight animals cruelty charges while Hebditch admitted five.
But on Monday they both walked free from court after being given suspended sentences and a ban on keeping animals.
Gibbons was handed a 22-week sentence suspended for 18 months, 220 hours unpaid work, told to pay £2,000 costs and prohibited from owning or keeping animals for 10 years.
Hebditch was given a 16-week sentence – also suspended for 18 months – as well as 160 hours unpaid work, £500 costs and banned from dealing with animals for six years.
Prosecutor Paul Taylor told the court: “The defendants held themselves up to the public as charity animal carers – they positively encouraged people to leave animals with them.
“The conditions in which the animals were kept were wholly unsuitable.”
Hebditch – who was pictured swearing at photographers outside court – confirmed yesterday Wulfrun Destitute Pets would be temporarily closed but vowed to carry on running the charity in the long-run.
He said: “We will have to serve the ban and will be replaced with different staff but we will continue.
“Our animals get a good quality of life, certainly more so than if we left them to die on the streets.
“If they needed to go to a vet they would go to a vet.
“We feel like we are victims of a politically motivated agenda.
“We are not criminals – we are animal lovers.”
Gibbons now works as a cleaner while Hebditch claims JobSeekers’ allowance.
Before sentence was passed, Clive Reece, defending the pair, said: “I can’t say there is no neglect but the video you’ve seen is a snapshot.”
During the hearing the pair asked the court to change their pleas back to not guilty.
But their request was refused by the district judge because he had not received a written application.
Judge Michael Wheeler told them: “Your attitude towards this investigation and case has been obstructive at best and abusive at worst.”