Couple with 69 animals in Somerset home admit cruelty

Dogs in yard When RSPCA officers raided the property in October they were "swamped by a sea of dogs"

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A couple who kept 69 pets, including 56 large dogs, at their family home have admitted nine counts of animal cruelty.

Nicola Hood, 31, and her husband James Hood, 40, kept the pets in their four-bedroom home in Queens Road, Minehead, Somerset.

Taunton magistrates heard that when RSPCA officers raided the property in October they were "swamped by a sea of dogs".

The pair were released on bail and are due to be sentenced on 19 April.

Nicola and James Hood The court heard the couple thought of the house as an "animal sanctuary"

The court was told that the couple's five children were at risk of contracting disease from the animals.

The pair had 56 dogs, including huskies, German shepherds, Rottweilers and Staffordshire bull terriers, three cats living in the bathroom, six birds, including love birds in dirty cages, and four chinchillas.

RSPCA officers found the couple's nine-month-old baby in a bed with sheets soiled with bird droppings, magistrates heard.

Bad smell

The couple both admitted three charges of causing unnecessary suffering to animals and six of failing to take reasonable steps to ensure the needs of the animals were met.

Prosecutor Neil Scott said that many of the animals had been suffering from complaints affecting their eyes, teeth, ears and skin, some of them for up to a year.

Neighbours complained of endless noise from the dogs and said the smell was so bad, it stopped them going in to their own gardens.

Home of Nicola and James Hood The couple kept the pets in their four-bedroom home

Ian Denley, representing the defendants, said the couple thought of the house as an "animal sanctuary", taking in animals that might have otherwise been put down from friends and from people contacted through the internet.

"The majority of the animals in the house - the 56 dogs and the birds - were animals he [Mr Hood] took in when people had not been able to cope with them themselves," he said.

"They effectively sought to look after the animals and have not been able to do that because of the sheer volume of animals they have taken in."

Most of the dogs have been rehomed, with eight remaining at a centre at West Hatch.

Somerset County Council said it was made aware of the family and dealt with the issue of child safety with a satisfactory outcome.

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