Cruel couple who starved their dogs are spared jail despite leaving animal on the brink of death

Christopher Cooke, dob 110985, of Church Street, Seaham, outside Newton Aycliffe Magistrates' Court.
Christopher Cooke, dob 110985, of Church Street, Seaham, outside Newton Aycliffe Magistrates' Court.

A couple have been spared jail after they starved their dogs to such an extent they were described as skeletal by a vet.

When the desperate plight of the pets were discovered, greyhound Kane was at death’s door and was unlikely to survive another night without treatment, magistrates at Newton Aycliffe heard.

Toni Leigh Bailey, dob 080496, of Church Street, Seaham, outside Newton Aycliffe Magistrates' Court.

Toni Leigh Bailey, dob 080496, of Church Street, Seaham, outside Newton Aycliffe Magistrates' Court.

Cruel Christopher Cooke, 31, and Toni Leigh Bailey, 21, were handed suspended prison sentences and a 10-year ban from keeping all animals, after pleading guilty to causing unnecessary suffering to three dogs.

Theit home had mouldy faeces on the floor and a fish tank with dead fish floating in it, the court heard.

Prosecutor Kevin Campbell said an investigation was launched after the then-couple, of Church Street, Seaham, took two of their dogs to the PDSA in Gateshead, on January 9.

The vet who saw greyhounds Kane and Roxy was so concerned about their poor condition that an RSPCA inspector was called out at 11.30pm that night.

The second dog was presenting only at the point of dying – if he had not received treatment that evening, I am certain he would have died that night

Veterinary surgeon

“Kane was unable stand and struggled to move,” Mr Campbell said. “He was unable to lift his head.

“Every bone could be seen and he looked like a skeleton.”

The second dog, Roxy, was able to stand up, the court was told, but her ribs and hip bones were protruding.

Mr Campbell said: “They were among the thinnest dogs she had seen in her career.

RSPCA photographic evidence from the case.

RSPCA photographic evidence from the case.

“Police attended and seized the dogs and the following day, inspectors attended the defendants’ address.”

The court heard two further dogs were found in the home – male greyhound Boss and young female cross-breed Suki.

Mr Campbell said: “There were old, mouldy faces on the floor and there was a fish tank which was very dirty, with dead fish in the tank.”

Boss was described as being in similar body condition to Kane and Roxy, while Suki was in a better state.

RSPCA photographic evidence  from the case.

RSPCA photographic evidence from the case.

Evidence from a vet stated: “I have no hesitation in saying that both dogs were suffering to an unacceptable and severe extent.

“It would have taken several months to reach this level of concern.

“They have undergone a prolonged period of inadequate nutrition.

“Both were subject to an extended period of suffering and distress.

“The second dog was presenting only at the point of dying.

“If he had not received treatment that evening, I am certain he would have died that night.”

Newton Aycliffe Magistrates' Court.

Newton Aycliffe Magistrates' Court.

The statement added: “In my experience, an animal that had not been eating for a couple of weeks would not result in a body condition score of one – which is skeletal.”

Cooke said the dogs were fed, but admitted they were on the ‘skinny side’.

Cooke, a father of young children, works nights as an operative, having recently started work.

A probation report into Bailey’s circumstances, heard she claimed to have 19 GCSEs and earns £600 per week as a 24-hour carer for a disabled person.

Bailey claimed she would often come home late and had assumed Cooke had already fed the animals.

The pair have since split up, but remain living in the same home.

Tom Morgan, defending, said: “Mr Cooke says he was spending in excess of £200 per month on food for the dogs – on tripe, various meat types and biscuits.

“While both defendants accept that they should have taken the dogs to a vet practice sooner, it is to their credit that when it was clear that the dogs were in an extremely bad state of health, they were taken to the vet and care was sought.”

Mr Morgan added: “Both of these defendants – regardless of the evidence – would say they have a great fondness for animals and a life-time ban would be a particularly severe punishment for them.”

Both were sentenced to three months’ imprisonment, suspended for 18 months.

They were also told to carry out 300 hours each of unpaid work, and 10 days of specified activity, and each pay £360 in vet fees, £240 prosecution costs, and £115 surcharge.

They were banned from keeping all animals for 10 years and will have to wait five years before applying for the ban to be removed.

Chairman of the magistrates’ bench, Paul Elliott added: “This could have very easily been an immediate custodial sentence and you could have gone out a different door instead of the door at the back.”