Case Snapshot
Case ID: 19343
Classification: Neglect / Abandonment
Animal: dog (non pit-bull)
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Prosecutor(s): Kevin Batch
Defense(s): Peter Spary
Judge(s): Stan Chapman

Tuesday, Oct 25, 2011

Disposition: Convicted

» Valerie Fillingham
» Sarah Fillingham
» Barry Fillingham
» Simon Fillingham

A Gorleston family who left its dog to die beside a grave which it dug for it has been banned from keeping animals for 10 years.

Valerie Fillingham, 63, and her three children Barry, 32, Simon, 26, and Sarah, 22, all pleaded guilty to causing unnecessary suffering to an animal, at Great Yarmouth Magistrates' Court on Tuesday.

Family pet Susie, a black and white spaniel, died from a massive tumour in October last year.

Despite knowing about the tumour since August, the Fillinghams had not taken her to see a vet.

The court heard that on October 25, the RSPCA received an anonymous call alerting them to the Fillinghams' address.

An RSPCA inspector visited the family's home in Middleton Road, Gorleston, where Susie was left outside in the cold on a dirty blanket behind an umbrella in the back garden.

She was unable to move or lift her head up and there was a 10cm by 10cm tumour on her abdomen.

Kevin Batch, prosecuting on behalf of the RSPCA, said on the left side of the garden there was a grave that they had dug for the dog.

On examining Susie in the back of the RSPCA van, the vet was so concerned that she euthanised the dog.

When interviewed by inspectors for the charity, Simon Fillingham said he had noticed the tumour a week before Susie died.

He said: "I didn't take her to the vet because we thought it would be cancer or a cyst. All our other dogs have just had a fit and died. If you have a dog with cancer, you just let the dog die itself.

"I dug the grave at the weekend because I thought she would die."

During her interview, Sarah Fillingham said: "I noticed the lump in August and it started getting bigger but we didn't have enough money to take her to the vet. She must have been in pain." She said when she saw photos of Susie after she had died, they made her feel sick.

Valerie Fillingham said she had noticed the lump growing quickly over a couple of weeks.

"If we had the money we would have taken the dog to the vets. She started biting it and we told her to stop. I don't know if she was in pain." she said.

In mitigation, Peter Spary said: "Susie was 16-years-old and they had her from when she was three-months-old. The family are very upset she died. One member said they didn't realise they could go to the PDSA. The four of them have been very silly."

Mr Spary said the family had some money which was stolen during a burglary.

He added: "It wasn't wilful neglect; it was stupidity."

Chairman of the bench Stan Chapman ordered them each to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work and pay £150 each.

The four were also each given a 12-week sentence which was suspended for a year and were banned from keeping animals for 10 years - a ban which they cannot appeal for five years.

Their three-year-old Rottweiler, Roxy, will be taken away from them.


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