A GWENT woman has been handed a suspended jail sentence after being convicted of two animal welfare offences.

Rebecca Davies failed to follow advice given by a vet in order to treat a tumour on her cat’s leg, which eventually required amputation.

Davies, of Stafford Road, Caldicot, pleaded guilty to the two offences, both of which concerned her five-year-old tortoiseshell cat Mitzi.

Last Thursday (December 9), Cwmbran Magistrates’ Court heard that Davies was first visited by RSPCA inspector Christine McNeil on May 6, 2020, following welfare concerns regarding Mitzi.

The inspector was told the cat, who was out, had a sore on her left hind leg, which appeared to be getting worse and was causing her to be lame.

WARNING: The below image is graphic

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Davies said she had no way of getting Mitzi to a vet, didn’t think they were open, and that funding was an issue.

The following day, the RSPCA arranged for Mitzi to be seen to by a vet. The vet who examined Mitzi later that morning confirmed she had a tumour of some sort and would have been suffering for at least three weeks. She said the limb would need to be amputated and tests carried out to see whether the tumour had spread.

Mitzi was given pain relief and the vet advised that the leg would need operating on in a maximum of seven to 14 days.

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Inspector McNeil telephoned Davies on May 12 for an update, magistrates heard. Davies told the inspector that she had been in contact with a vet and had sent them Mitzi’s photos and notes. She was unable to provide the name of the vet she had spoken to, but thought it might be ‘Catherine’.

Subsequent calls revealed that the veterinary practice had not provided any advice regarding treatment, and could not do so without seeing Mitzi first.

Davies was reminded again of her obligations and the fact that Mitzi needed an urgent operation within a specific time frame. Davies said she was still waiting for some money that was owed to her and was trying to do everything she could to get her treatment. She denied her cat was suffering and again declined the offer of transport or signing Mitzi over into the care of the RSPCA. 

Two days later, the veterinary practice that Davies claimed to have rung told inspector McNeil they did not have a vet or a nurse by the name of Catherine. On May 26, they confirmed that Mitzi had still not been seen and they had no record of her.  

On June 2 inspector McNeil returned to Davies’ house, along with a police officer. By this time, Mitzi’s wound was raw, moist and bleeding, with a strong smell of infection. Davies repeated that she still had no money and was doing everything she could for her cat.    

Inspector McNeil immediately took Mitzi to the same vet who had treated her in May. The mass on her leg had grown, measuring between 3 cm and 3.5 cm across, and between 6 cm and 6.5 cm long. She had lost weight and was reluctant to use the leg, which had significantly wasted away due to disuse. A successful operation to amputate her leg was carried out a few days later, and subsequent tests revealed that the tumour had not spread.

Free Press Series: Mitzi after her operation (Credit: RSPCA)Mitzi after her operation (Credit: RSPCA)

In a statement, the vet who carried out the operation said: “In my professional opinion the owner of this cat has failed in her duty of care to prevent suffering and to provide veterinary care for her pet, despite direct veterinary advice informing her of the needs of her pet and a timescale in which those needs needed to be met.

“By failing to seek the advised veterinary attention, this cat’s owner has allowed her pet to suffer unnecessarily for a period of 26 days. Even with the medication to reduce her suffering there would have been some level of pain; however the pain medication at the prescribed dose would have lasted at most 20 days with a further six days without any pain relief. The fact that she lost 500 grams in weight over this period of time and put on weight quickly when restarting the medication, indicates how much she was affected by this mass.”

Magistrates said Davies’ lack of action amounted to gross negligence and had caused Mitzi serious harm. They said the case crossed the threshold for custody, but they were imposing a  suspended sentence because of Davies’ previous good character and the effect that prison would have on her mental health.

Davies was sentenced to 12 weeks in prison, suspended for 18 months, and banned from keeping all animals for five years.

She was also told to pay £400 in costs and a £122 victim surcharge.

In mitigation, the court heard Davies was isolating due to Covid and saw the cat as company.

After the sentencing, inspector McNeil said: “We provided details of financial assistance, help with transportation and the offer of a new home for Mitzi on several occasions. Her owner was given numerous chances to rectify the situation, but failed to take the appropriate and responsible course of action, which sadly resulted in Mitzi suffering unnecessarily for many weeks.”

Mitzi made a good recovery in the care of the RSPCA following her operation, but sadly was found dead in her kennel five months later.