A couple who left the body of their eight-week-old kitten in a shoebox after being repeatedly thrown against a wall and a pole have avoided jail.
Callum Richardson and Ellen Jayne Symon have been banned from keeping animals for life after Coco’s death and serious wounds inflicted on two other cats. The RSPCA were called to report the kitten had been killed at an address on Heatley Close in Blackburn where the couple lived together.
An inquest found Coco died from blunt force trauma, while another cat had 13 fractured ribs, a fractured leg and a fractured cheekbone. Another cat was unable to walk because she had a broken leg, Lancashire Magistrates’ Court heard.
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The RSPCA were first called to the property after a cat charity reported they had taken five cats into their care at the owners’ request – and some had injuries suggesting deliberate damage had been caused to pets.
Inspector Danni Jennings collected the cats on November 4, 2020. She took them to the RSPCA’s Greater Manchester Animal Hospital for veterinary care as two cats had difficulty walking and another cat called Ellie had a right forelimb broken.
The couple later said in interviews that Ellie suffered a broken front leg after being hit with a brush during a domestic argument. A leg amputation had to be performed on Ellie who recovered from her injuries, but unfortunately the tests could not establish what was causing the other two animals to lose their balance.
A serious neurological condition was suspected, but the cause was unknown. A vet decided the two animals needed to be put to sleep to end their suffering and the other two cats that were removed from the couple were treated for fleas and worms and returned to full health.
Two months later, on January 26, 2021, the RSPCA was called to report that Coco had been killed at the Heatley Close property. The kitten’s body was found in a shoebox at home.
Richardson, 22, of Heatley Close, and Symon, 22, of Hazel Avenue, Darwen, accused each other of killing the eight-week-old animal by throwing her against a wall. The RSPCA said an autopsy showed this was likely the cause of death – but she had a number of blunt injuries suggesting she had been thrown more than once.
Then, as the investigation continued, in August 2021 the RSPCA was called to report that the couple had another cat in their care, called Lucifer, who appeared to be seriously injured and howling in pain. The one-year-old animal was recovered by the RSPCA and rushed to Greater Manchester Animal Hospital.
He was found to have a fractured right hind limb and multiple historical cheekbone fractures and 13 rib fractures. Lucifer has since recovered after having his leg pinned and had to rest for two months in a cage.
An independent veterinary expert told the court: “In my opinion, Lucifer has been the victim of physical abuse on several occasions. Suffering would have been felt by this animal via mechanisms of fear, distress and pain on at least three occasions in six weeks.
“The right forelimb fracture evident on Ellie is consistent with the injury caused when she was struck with a sweeping brush, as suggested in court. As for Coco, it seems undisputed that this eight-week-old kitten was physically injured by being thrown against a wall and the post.
“But the injuries sustained by this kitten suggest that more than blunt trauma occurred and cannot be explained by him being thrown into a wall on one occasion.”
Inspector Jennings said: ‘It was an awful case of cruelty to a number of helpless cats. This lawsuit sends a statement that treating cats in this manner is completely unacceptable.
Along with a lifetime ban from keeping any animals, the couple were given an 18-week jail sentence suspended for two years and also ordered to complete a 20-day rehabilitation activity requirement and each must pay £350 fee. Ellie and Lucifer have since been relocated by the RSPCA and are doing well in their new homes.