A former Dogs Trust worker who starved and neglected her own pets has been banned from keeping dogs for five years.
Kaitlyn MacDonald escaped being sent to prison but was ordered to carry out 240 hours of unpaid work under a 12–month community payback order as punishment.
MacDonald earlier blamed the offence on her depression and the fact she’d had stopped taking her medication because she fell pregnant a few weeks before the offence.
Passing sentence at Livingston Sheriff Court yesterday (Monday) Sheriff Susan Craig warned her if she had not pled guilty before the case went to trial she would have been jailed.
The sheriff said: “My concern is that there’s little by way of explanation as to how these offences have arisen in the first place.
“The photographs shown to me by the fiscal were of particular concern to me largely because your explanation of what happened didn’t appear to marry at all with the photographs.
“The dogs were very weak and thirsty and I’ve tried to find out how it is – given your engagement with the Dogs Trust – that one dog was too big for its cage in the living room.
“The psychiatric report does shed a bit more light on your circumstances but it doesn’t help me to understand how you got yourself in this situation in the first place.”
Sheriff Craig said it was not appropriate to send MacDonald to prison because her mental health was “too fragile” and she had a young child with no-one else to care for him.
But she added: “You were very close to it.”
She granted a deprivation order removing four remaining dogs from MacDonald’s legal ownership and told her she would not be able to challenge the five-year order banning her from keeping dogs for at least three years.
The court was told earlier that MacDonald had lost her job as a canine carer with The Dog’s Trust charity as a result of her conviction and had since received hate mail from members of the public angered by her cruelty to animals.
Macdonald, 24, earlier pled guilty to failing to meet the dogs’ needs and keeping them in a soiled environment following a tip-off to the Scottish Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA) helpline about “dog neglect”.
An SSPCA inspector and police officers found a total of eight dogs in her Burnside Terrace home in Polbeth, West Lothian, on July 13.
Four were removed immediately by the SSPCA and the remaining animals have since been taken from her for safe keeping.
A vet later gave the dogs health scores of just two out of 10. One of the animals – a Great Dane called Finn – was so starved all its bones were clearly visible.
Ironically, the court was told MacDonald took the animals in to help them after they were rejected by their former owners.
An inspection of her home found a nine-month-old Rottweiler bitch called Murren being kept in a plastic kennel which was too small for her.
A 10-month-old German Shepherd called Rex was muzzled in a dirty cage in the living room and a two-year-old Great Dane called Finn was being kept in another cage in the kitchen.
Finn had no food or water, the bedding was inadequate and urine was seeping from the bottom of the cage.
The dog was described as “extremely thin with bony prominences visible and lack of muscle mass”.
When asked about Finn, MacDonald told an SSPCA inspector he had had a ‘growth spurt’.”
More dogs were found in a kennel run in the garden, including a 14-week-old Staffordshire Bull Terrier cross puppy called Alfie suffering from mange.
There was also a 10-month-old German shepherd called Draco, a collie bitch named Misty, and an Alaskan malamute called Bandit. Each animal appeared to be “distressed”.
The court heard that when MacDonald let the dogs out of the run they rushed towards a bucket of rainwater in the garden then drank large quantities of the fresh water, indicating that they were “extremely thirsty and had been deprived of water”.
Emma Todd, defending, said her client had found the prospect of going to prison “extremely terrifying” but was now receiving treatment for her mental health problems.
Scottish SPCA Chief Superintendent Mike Flynn described the conditions the animals were kept in as “atrocious”.
He added: “This case is particularly concerning given MacDonald’s occupation at that time as an animal carer.
“It is completely inexcusable for someone with experience of working with animals to fail to meet their most basic needs.
“We welcome this conviction and ban. Thankfully, all four dogs were put on to a weight-gain programme in our care and they have all made an excellent recovery.
“We will now look to find them the loving homes they deserve.”