Six cats have been rescued from a shed in Wigan after living in conditions described by welfare officers as ‘the worst’.
The animals were kept in a prison-like shed fitted with chicken wire known in the area as ‘Al-cat-raz’ for almost three years.
The pets which had been raised in the shed since they were kittens were rescued after RSPCA officers raided the home of 60-year-old Janet Latheron, from Wigan, who spent her disability handouts feeding the cats with scraps from her local fish and chip shop.
Officials found every surface of the ram shackled compound including the windows sills caked inch-deep in dirt, maggots and dead flies while the terrified cats huddled together on a table.
‘THE WORST’: Appalling conditions the cats lived in (picture courtesy of Cavendish Press, with thanks)
The confused animals were so frightened of being handled by humans they began resisting and trying to scratch their rescuers.
All had multiple chronic infections and are now in an RSPCA safehouse where they are recovering.
Details of the harrowing case emerged at Wigan magistrates court in Greater Manchester where jobless Latheron who lives alone was banned from keeping pets for 15 years.
The ruling means she will also lose her pet bearded dragon which she kept inside her home due to fears for its safety.
AL-CAT-RAZ: The house in Wigan where they were imprisoned in the garden (picture courtesy of Cavendish Press, with thanks)
The grim discovery was made after RSPCA officers went to Latheron’s mid-terraced home in Atherton following a tip off.
Tony Stock prosecuting, told Wigan Magistrates Court: “Initially the RSPCA had difficulty accessing the property or ram shackled shed in which the cats were housed.
“After a number of hours and with assistance from the police they entered the shed and the inspector was shocked by the conditions they found, stating they were some of the worst conditions they had seen cats kept in.
“The inspector could not stay very long inside as conditions were so bad.
“The vet who examined the cats said that he could not remember a single animal suffering from so many infections at the same time in all his 30 years as a vet,” said Mr Stock.
BANNED FROM KEEPING PETS: Janet Latheron spent her disability handouts feeding the cats (picture courtesy of Cavendish Press, with thanks)
“The vet noted that by nature cats are clean and meticulous animals and these cats were found living, breathing and walking in their own dirt. This has led to mental suffering in which they were frightened and confused.
”Chips and onion gravy, their food, remained on the floor. The hand over was only achieved with some difficulty because the cats were clearly not used to being handled. All six cats were found to be frightened.”
Latheron later denied she had kept her cats in such an unsanitary environment but all six have been signed over to the RSPCA and have been treated for the infections they sustained.
Mrs Latheron pleaded guilty to causing unnecessary suffering to six cats by failing to house them in an appropriate environment and also failing to meet their needs by not protect them from pain, suffering, injury and disease between July 17 and October 17 last year.
SQUALOR: The entire shed was caked in faeces and infested with maggots (picture courtesy of Cavendish Press, with thanks)
In addition to the 15-year ban on keeping animals, JP Maureen Bilsborough issued Mrs Latheron with a curfew from 8pm until 7am for 16 weeks.
She was also ordered to pay costs of £500 and a victim surcharge of £60 and will not be able to appeal the ban on keeping all animals for ten years.
Her lawyer Bob Toppin said: “The defendant has swollen ankles and a bad hip and her mobility problems contributed to what happened.
“She has been in floods of tears and these are serious matters. She is a lady who is ashamed to find herself in court at this time in her life.”
But RSPCA Inspector Vicki McDonald, who attended the scene, said: “I hope never to see animals kept in such appalling conditions again. I couldn’t stay in that shed for more than ten minutes because the smell was so bad.”
“I am particularly pleased with the ban which will prevent the situation happening again and it goes to show keeping animals like this will not be tolerated and will be taken seriously by the courts.”