A WOMAN who was banned from keeping animals eight years ago has been told she cannot have pets until 2019.

Voluntary worker, Pearl Barker, from Darlington, had a cat and dog removed from her property in 2008 after an RSPCA vet found her German Shephard had been neglected.

The dog weighed around 10kg less than the normal weight for its breed and it was found to have a severe flea problem which had not been treated.

The RSPCA issued a disqualification order to stop Barker from keeping any animals from 2008 until November 2018.

But two inspections at Barker’s flat in 2012 and 2015 found she had rabbits, cats and goldfish in her property.

Her original ten-year ban was extended by one year, but Barker represented herself in Darlington Magistrates’ Court this week (March 9) during an appeal to have her disqualification overturned.

Barker, who is studying for a forensic psychology degree at Teesside University, told the court she missed the company of animals and hoped magistrates could see she had turned her life around.

Barker said: “I’m being made out to be a monster and I’m not.

“I’m deeply ashamed I had a dependent animal in my care and I neglected it, but over the years I’ve made tremendous changes in my life and I feel ready and able to take an animal into my home.

“I’m willing to do whatever it takes to have this ban lifted and if that means signing up to courses with the RSPCA and for them to give me a probation, I’m quite happy for anything at all.”

But the RSPCA recommended that the ban should remain in place while Barker continues to adjust aspects of her life.

Prosecutor Kevin Campbell said: “This application is premature.

“The law is here to protect the animals and this case is not about her, it’s about the animals – we’re looking out for them.”

Barker told the court the conviction had made it difficult for her to find work in the past and she hopes a degree qualification will allow her to help others with psychological issues.

Chairman of the bench, Ruth Dent, said: “We’ve judged your application very carefully and while we realise you’ve made changes we feel this application is premature.”

Barker must serve the rest of the ban until at least November 2017 before she can apply to own animals again.