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Men sentenced as house fire kills 11 cats that lived in shocking conditions

22 Jan 2024 6 minute read
Image: RSPCA Cymru

Two men have been disqualified from keeping animals for 10 years after they admitted to failing to provide a suitable environment for 24 cats – 11 of which were found deceased by the RSPCA.

Martin Clowes  and Gavin James Cromwell both of Tyn-Y-Celler, Water Street, Margam, pleaded guilty to one offence under the Animal Welfare Act in that they both failed to meet the needs of 24 cats in terms of a suitable environment.

The court heard that the RSPCA were called by South Wales Fire & Rescue Service on 22 March last year – to assist them at a property on Pyle Road following a house fire. Tragically a total of 11 cats were found to be deceased at the property.

Regret and remorse

Thirteen cats were found alive and were subsequently taken into RSPCA care.

Three were removed by the RSPCA on the day of the fire, two were removed by a member of the public and taken to a vet before the RSPCA arrived, and four were removed by Martin Clowes. In the following days after the fire, RSPCA rescuers caught a further four cats with a cat trap with the help of neighbours.

Clowes and Cromwell were sentenced at Swansea Magistrate’s Court on Monday 15 January and were handed 12 weeks imprisonment, suspended for 12 months, with no requirements. They were also banned from keeping all animals for 10 years. They were each ordered to pay £300 costs each and a £54 victim surcharge.

In mitigation the court heard that they had good intentions but lost control, and that the defendants have regret and remorse.

On her arrival, RSPCA animal rescue officer (ARO) Paula Milton was told by a fire officer that they had found two cats alive inside the house. She was also told by a neighbour that the owner had opened up a rescue called Jemima’s Place – which at first opened in Bridgend and then moved to the Pyle Road property.

“Overpowering”

When she entered, she said: “The smell from the house was so strong with urine and faeces. As I entered the house there was a smell of smoke but the smell of urine and faeces was overpowering the smell of the smoke.

“In the living room there were lots and lots of black rubbish bags full of soiled cat litter, this was piled about three-feet high, the rest of the living room was covered with clutter and the floor was covered in faeces.

“There were a few deceased cats in the living room on the floor.”

She also said there was a room next to the living room where there were again loads of black rubbish bags full of soiled cat litter, this filled most of the room and was piled about six-feet high.

Once the fire service had finished upstairs ARO Milton was able to try and catch the cats – she was told that the house was safe apart from the bedroom that had a hole in the floor from the fire.

She then met Martin Clowes who said he was the owner and he helped her catch the live cats.

“I went to go up the stairs and the stairs were covered in cat faeces, at the top of the stairs there were two dead cats in the upstairs hall,” she said. “Also in the hall there were more black rubbish bags full of soiled cat litter, there was faeces and rubbish all over the floor.

In the bathroom she found three live cats – where she said the “floor was completely covered in cat faeces”.

Image: RSPCA Cymru

The three cats were caught and placed into her van, which were Cheeko, a black seven-year-old cat, Ady, a seven-year-old white and black cat, and Lewis, a tabby and white, four-year-old.

There were also two cats that were taken to a vets in Bridgend by someone on the morning of the fire – and Mr Clowes also agreed to sign these cats over into RSPCA care.

Rubbish and faeces

ARO Milton went back into the house to see if there were any more cats – where she found further rubbish.

She said “In the hall upstairs leading to the bedrooms there was a pile of black rubbish bags full of soiled cat litter that was about two-feet high. I couldn’t get into the smaller bedroom, this room was full of rubbish and faeces.

“In the main bedroom where the fire was, in the left hand corner again more rubbish bags with soiled cat litter there were a few bags on the right hand side and also at the back of the room the left side of the bed was more black bags with soiled litter this was about two-feet high also.”

She along with Martin Clowes started collecting the body’s of the cats who had sadly lost their lives in the fire –  11 cats were found.

ARO Milton said she was told that Mr Clowes did not live at the house but he visited three to four times a day to feed the cats.

The following day RSPCA deputy chief inspector (DCI) Gemma Cooper met Martin Clowes where he showed her four more cats that had been in the house fire to her. These four cats along with the two that had been taken to a vets in Bridgend were then transferred to RSPCA Merthyr Tydfil Veterinary Clinic.

“Not safe”

In her written statement – provided to the court – DCI Cooper said the environment in which 24 cats were living was “not safe, clean or hygienic”.

There was an electric heater which had been left on inside the house whilst it was unoccupied, which is an “obvious hazard”. No litter trays were provided and the cats, who were toileting all over the floor of the property and there was no substrate provided for them to cover it up.

She added that there was no mental or physical stimulation inside the property for the cats and there was not enough space for the cats to have their own space if needed inside the two bedroomed cottage.

The court also heard that – another animal charity which is no longer running – removed around 30 cats in poor health from Jemima’s Place back in 2021 when Clowes and Cromwell admitted they could not cope.

The 13 cats involved in this case were signed over to the RSPCA and have been rehomed.


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blcollier
blcollier
4 months ago

Those are horrifying conditions. Sad to see that so many cats were found dead, but I’m glad the survivors have since been re-homed. Here’s hoping they get the care and attention they deserve in their (hopefully) forever homes.

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