Jail warning for Sunderland woman who failed to protect cat from attack which left pet with ‘life-ending injuries’ before it had to be put down

Rebecca Cullerton
Rebecca Cullerton

A Sunderland woman who failed to protect her cat from a savage attack – leaving it with multiple ‘life-ending injuries’ before it had to be put down – has been warned she faces jail.

The shocking case of animal cruelty was brought to court after three other cats died in the care of Rebecca Cullerton, 23 and Jordan Steel, 21.

Sunderland Magistrates' Court

Sunderland Magistrates' Court

Cullerton, of Westheath Avenue, Grangetown, admitted two counts of causing unnecessary suffering to her cat Reuben.

Estranged partner Steel, 21, of Park Court, Gateshead, failed to turn up to the hearing at Sunderland Magistrates’ Court and was found guilty of the same offences in absence.

A warrant was issued for his arrest.

RSPCA prosecutor John Ellwood said: “They were co-habiting in Sunderland at the relevant time.

Sadly, he was physically battered to such an extent that he suffered life-ending injuries. He was euthanised because he had no prospect of survival

John Ellwood, prosecuting for the RSPCA

“Rebecca Cullerton had a ginger and white male cat called Reuben. Sadly, he was physically battered to such an extent that he suffered life-ending injuries.

“He was euthanised because he had no prospect of survival.”

Mr Ellwood said Cullerton would have known the cat was critically injured on April 2. However, it wasn’t until the afternoon of April 4 that she took him to the vet.

Reuben presented with a swollen head, a bulging right eye, lacerated muscles on his back, the larynx congested with blood, soft tissue damage to the neck, collapsed lungs, four recent and six old rib fractures.

Mr Ellwood referred to the injuries as “dreadful” and “grim”, and said the post mortem concluded death was caused by non-accidental injuries.

“The cat had pre-existing rib fractures as a result of a previous assault,” he added.

“Steel gave an unbelievable account that a wardrobe or some other heavy piece of furniture had fallen on the cat. He clearly lied.”

Cullerton said she came home to find Steel standing over a crying Reuben.

“She said Jordan steel has hit her in the past, smacked the cat, threatened her with a hammer and held a knife to her throat,” he added.

“Three other cats have died in their joint care.”

Peter Thubron, defending Cullerton, said: “She became aware that Mr Steel had been aggressive and bad-tempered towards the cat and its injuries were such that he was taken to the vet.”

He added that “she did what she could” despite lack of knowledge and money, and said she only became aware the cat was in pain two days after the assault.

Mr Thubron said: “She was very limited as to what she could do because she would risk violence if she did anything.

“She is extremely remorseful.”

Magistrates asked for a pre-sentence report to be prepared prior to sentencing at South Tyneside Magistrates’ Court on November 24, leaving all options – including custody – open to the sentencing bench.