Couple left pets to starve while they went on luxury holiday... then blamed mother in law, court hears as they say sorry to their children

Rozina Sabur
Cat which died after being left for two weeks while it's owners were away - SWNS-London-+44 (0)1179066550

A Surrey couple left their pets to starve at home while they went on a luxury holiday, then tried to blame the mother-in-law, a court heard.

David Hicks 41, and his wife Zara Hicks, 38, both previously pleaded guilty to three charges under the animal welfare act after they left their pets to fend for themselves.

David, a lab technician in an opticians, and Zara, a payroll manager, have been banned from keeping animals for 12 years and apologised to their children.

Wimbledon Magistrates Court on Wednesday heard one of their cats was found dead on top of the cooker by RSPCA inspectors who entered the address while the family were away.

When the couple returned from the continent last August, Mr Hicks tried to blame his mother-in-law, saying they had arranged for her to check on the animals.

Cat which died after being left for two weeks while it's owners were away Credit: SWNS

However the court heard she denied this and the couple pleaded guilty last month, and both were given suspended prison sentences yesterday.

The RSPCA was originally called to the address following concerns from neighbours on September 3.

Over the fence of the back garden an officer found a poodle dog, called Honey, and a long haired tabby cat called Twitch in the back garden.

The officer left some food and a bucket of water for the animals and returned the next day and found the animals still hungry for food, and no owners at the house.

RSPCA officers executed a warrant to entered the address with police on September 6.

Honey the dog who was left in a house for two weeks while it's owners were away Credit: SWNS

Prosecutor Andrew Wiles said: "Inside police found a cat lying dead on the kitchen cooker.

"In another part of the kitchen, barricaded as it were, there were a total of ten bowls or saucepans in which were small amounts of water or food."

The second cat was found alive in the kitchen and the dog was found in another room lying on top of a number of items.

Mr Wiles said: "There was also found a calendar on the wall which was marked France, indicating they were away from August 28, to return on the September 8."

All the animals were taken to a vets, and the dog was found to be healthy within normal perimeters, as was the other living cat.

Mr Wiles said: "The dead cat was emaciated, and weighed just 2.13kg. It's bones were protruding.

"A postmortem found there was a tumour in the large intestine but there was little food found in there indicating it had not eaten for some time before death."

Vets also found all the animals were infested with fleas.

The prosecutor said: "When they were interviewed they started to blame Mrs Hicks' mother, saying arraignments had been made with her to look in on the animals in their absence.

"Her mother provided a witness statement in which she made it clear she hadn't been asked to look in on the animals. In fact she said she had never been asked to look after the animals."

Mr Hicks, speaking on behalf of himself and his wife who were self represented, said: "We're just terribly terribly sorry. It's embarrassing.

"We have two wonderful children and we will have to tell them they aren't going to have pets any more. It makes me sick just thinking about it. We're just very sorry."

David Hicks, was given a 16 week sentenced suspended for two years, ordered to carry out 160 hours of unpaid work and ordered to £400 costs.

Zara Hicks was given 20 week prison sentence, suspended for two years, ordered to carry out 200 houses of unpaid work in the community, and also ordered to pay £400 costs.

In sentencing Magistrate Jane Spencer said: "We have sentenced you this way because the offence is so serious that only a custodial sentence is suitable.

"The reasons are that the condition of one cat in particular, had a long term illness that should have been treated, showing long term neglect resulting in its death.

"Each the animals was infested with fleas and all the animals were neglected for a period of time."

Cat which was left for two weeks in Chessington, Surrey while it's owners were away Credit: SWNS

She added: "Mrs Hicks, your sentence was slightly more than your husband because you fabricated an arrangement with your mother that put her under suspicion.

"If you had not pleaded guilty then both of your sentences would not have been suspended and you would be serving a prison sentence."

The magistrates also ordered the two surviving animals be taken out of the care of the Hicks' and re-homed and the couple were banned from keeping animals for 12 years.

RSPCA chief inspector Kerry Gabriel said: "With the Easter holidays coming up, this case is a reminder to pet owners of the importance of ensuring their animals are safe and cared for when they go away.

"It is not enough to just leave a couple of bowls of food down - dogs, cats and, indeed, all domestic animals, need proper supervision and care.

"In this case one of the cats sadly died while the couple had gone away on their holiday for two weeks, due to lack of veterinary care. This would have been a very lonely and probably painful death, poor thing.

"The other two were very neglected and distressed, and covered in fleas. This was a case of pet owners completely failing to provide the care they should have."

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