Abingdon Animal Cruelty: 2 Jailed

A mother and son have been jailed for persistent neglect of animals at their family-run rescue centre in Oxfordshire.

Angela Russell, 44, and Robert Russell, 25, were sentenced to 26 weeks at Oxford Magistrates' Court, after having already been convicted of 16 charges relating to animal neglect at Crunchy's Animal Rescue Centre at Longworth, near Abingdon.

Both were also banned from keeping animals for the rest of their lives, after the court heard that RSPCA officers swooped on the site in January, finding dogs living in piles of their own faeces, and horses crippled by overgrown hooves. 

Four other family members - Mrs Russell's elderly father Frederick Russell, daughters Louise and Kirsty Russell, and niece Abigail McHugh, were also convicted of all of the charges.

Sentencing Angela Russell to the maximum term allowed for the offences, District Judge Tim Pattinson told her he believed her to have been ``the prime mover'' in the neglect.

"There is no way an animal lover could allow such profound neglect of this type,'' he said. 

The RSPCA had issued warnings to the Russells, who ran the centre as a registered charity, as early as April 2010, urging an improvement in conditions on the plot. 

"``a horse eating from a wheelie bin'', ``dogs in cages of their own faeces'' and ``horses with hooves that hadn't been cut in three years'', according to RSPCA Inspector Kirsty Withnall. 

In all, 80 animals were seized, although some are still "missing, presumed dead'', the judge said, while the RSPCA believes some were removed from the site without its knowledge over the course of its three-day search of the large rescue centre.

The 81-year-old Mr Russell was given a 26-week jail term, suspended for 18 months because of his age, and banned from keeping animals for life. 

Kirsty Russell, 21, appearing in court in a wheelchair, was given a four-month community order with a curfew and was banned from having animals for 10 years.

Louise Russell, 22, was handed a 12-week prison sentence, suspended for 18 months, and also banned from keeping animals for 10 years. 

The judge told Abigail McHugh, 21, she had "less culpability than the others'' and gave her a 12 month community order with 150 hours' unpaid work. All six defendants were given concurrent sentences for each of the 16 charges.