Yorkshire couple in their 70s who fled RSPCA with dogs distressed in their 'stinking' van taken to court

A French bulldog needed to undergo surgery to have her eye removed after she and seven other dogs were neglected by a couple who left them in the back of a stinking, faeces-strewn van.

The dogs' owners Bryan and Georgina Riley, aged 75 and 70, both received eight-year bans from keeping animals after an RSPCA investigation.

The animal welfare charity was following up an earlier visit to the Rileys’ home in the village of Gringley-on-the-Hill near Bawtry on the outskirts of Doncaster, during which they were asked to comply with an assessment notice issued previously.

When RSPCA inspector Daniel Bradshaw returned with a police officer on November 2 last year, the couple drove off in a Transit van after they were asked to open up the back of the vehicle, from which dogs could be heard crying and whining.

Lola's damaged eye

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They were later apprehended and the dogs were removed from the van and their condition assessed at a police station.

Among them was a four-year-old French bulldog called Lola, whose eyeball was so badly infected it was damaged beyond repair, while three of the other dogs were suffering from severe skin conditions.

They appeared for sentencing at Doncaster Magistrates’ Court on Monday June 13.

The filthy van where the dogs were kept

At an earlier hearing Bryan Riley pleaded guilty to two offences of causing unnecessary suffering; one of failing to provide veterinary care for three dogs who were suffering from skin disease and the other of failing to provide veterinary care for the injury to Lola’s eye. He also admitted a third offence of failing to ensure the needs of all eight dogs were met.

Georgina Riley pleaded guilty to one charge of failing to ensure the needs of the eight dogs were met.

In his witness statement, Inspector Bradshaw said: “Lola’s eyeball was hanging out and appeared to have a large scab that was oozing blood and pus and appeared to have faeces stuck to it. She had scabs and sores in her coat as well as a skin condition.”

The inspector said of the van: “There was such a strong smell of faeces, urine and ammonia that I struggled to put my head inside for more than two seconds.”

Among the other dogs recovered from the van was a French bulldog, called Hugo, whose fur was thinning and he was suffering from scabs on his coat as well as a weeping sore on his hock.

A dachshund, called Iggy, was suffering from extensive hair loss and scabs on his coat. Another French bulldog, called Liberty, also had scabs on her coat and open sores on her face. Her collar was attached so tightly that her neck was sore and reddened.

Two poodles, mother and daughter Angel and Coco, had dirty matted coats. Another dachshund, called Lady, had thinning fur and the coat of a poodle, called Rosie, was matted with faeces and urine and she had sores around her eyes and an elbow.

The dogs were taken to a vets, but a surgeon found Lola’s prolapsed eye was so badly swollen and infected that, sadly, the only course of action was to have it removed.

The vet said that most of the dogs were in various states of malnutrition and their bodies were covered in scabs and lesions from an infestation of fleas or mange, with Hugo, Iggy and Liberty the worst affected.

In her expert report, the veterinary surgeon said of Lola’s eye: “This condition would have taken at least four months to develop, likely following an injury or infection to the eye that was subsequently never treated.”

In mitigation, the court was told the defendants, who both suffer from physical ill health, were left with a large number of dogs they had struggled to cope with and they were keeping them outside in the van because their property had been a target for burglars.

Their solicitor added they “were out of their depth and not deliberately cruel”.

But the magistrates said there was “clear evidence” that the pair had been reluctant to engage with the RSPCA. As well as the bans they imposed on the pair, they fined Brian Riley £750 and told him to pay combined costs and a victim surcharge of £475.

And they fined Georgina Riley £250 and ordered her to pay combined costs and a victim surcharge of £434.

All the dogs were signed over into the care of the RSPCA and have since been rehomed through RSPCA Doncaster, Rotherham and District Branch.