Couple jailed for keeping children locked in filthy house with 22 dogs

A COUPLE who kept four children locked in a filth-ridden house with a pack of 22 dogs were jailed yesterday for "appalling" neglect.

The pair sat impassively as they were sentenced to 70 days' imprisonment for the wilful neglect of the children in their care, then aged between five and 13. Three of the children suffered from illnesses arising from the ingestion of dog faeces.

Arbroath Sheriff Court heard how the alarm was raised after teachers reported that one of the younger children barked like a dog when he became stressed.

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At an earlier court appearance, the woman, aged 35, and the 60-year-old man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, admitted willfully neglecting the children in a manner likely to cause unnecessary suffering or injury to their health

at a house in Carnoustie, Angus, between May and August last year.

The conditions were so horrific that neighbours reported seeing the children trying to escape from upstairs bedroom windows by clambering down ropes made from bandages.

Among the many dogs in the family home were huskies and Staffordshire bull terriers

Keith Robertson, prosecuting, said staff at a school attended by two of the children expressed fears for their welfare to social workers. They were especially alarmed by the "bizarre" behaviour of one child who was "dirty and smelled of urine".

He said: "The behaviour was on one hand bizarre and on the other hand could only be described as tragic. He had been observed to climb under desks and to squeeze into small spaces. He appeared to mimic canine behaviour. He was known, when distressed, to bark and growl.

"At the same time as the school's concerns, complaints were made by neighbours over the nuisance of the dogs, which included barking, the smell of the dogs and dog excrement as well as the behaviour of the dogs when they escaped and the infestation of the flies which accompanied the dog excrement. One neighbour described it as 'intolerable'."

When police raided the house last September, accompanied by social workers and environmental health officers, they were forced to wear masks to counter the stench and were horrified by what they found in the house.

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"Experienced police officers described what they saw as 'horrendous'. The common denominator was the presence of rubbish and the unbearable, overpowering smell of urine, the presence of dogs and their excrement," Mr Robertson said.

"Once those present were allowed upstairs, the smell was unbearable. The ammonia in the air was so strong that all officers were required to wear face masks and it continued to make the eyes water."

Mr Robertson said the children were later examined and three tested positive for a condition caused by ingesting animal faeces.

Sheriff Norrie Stein said it was difficult to comprehend how four young children could be put in such appalling living conditions.

"The only appropriate sentence is one of imprisonment in each case," he said."The condition of the house really speaks for itself."

The woman also pleaded guilty to four charges of failing to control her various dogs.

In the first charge, three huskies chased two women, placing them in a state of fear and alarm. Another charge stated that the woman allowed a dog to scare two nine-year-olds and a ten-year- old at a park in Carnoustie.

Billy Rennie, defending, said two of the children had been diagnosed as suffering from attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Sheriff Stein replied: "Maybe they have behavioural problems because they were living in accommodation like that."