A County Durham man who abandoned his dogs leading to one of them being so starved that they ate a bin liner has been banned from keeping animals for five years.

The three dogs of 20-year-old Joshua Sanderson from Eldon, Bishop Auckland were discovered living in a flat strewn with faces and rubbish after they were abandoned.

The dogs, who are all lurchers, were found to be malnourished and were living in a bedroom when the RSPCA and police gained entry to the flat.

One of the dogs, a female called Molly, was so malnourished that the remains of a bin liner were found in her faeces.

The Northern Echo: Molly the lurcher.Molly the lurcher. (Image: RSPCA)

At a sentencing hearing on Wednesday, March 27, Newton Aycliffe Magistrates Court heard how one of the charity’s inspectors visited Mr Sanderson’s flat on April 6 last year.

In written evidence to the court, the inspector who gained entry to the flat said: "The door was opened and the smell of ammonia was overpowering.

"There was faeces present at the rear of the door and on the stairs. On entering the main area of the flat there were no dogs present or loose and it was littered with faeces and rubbish scattered about, there was also faeces on the settee in the main room.

The Northern Echo: The flat, as it was found by inspectors.The flat, as it was found by inspectors. (Image: RSPCA)

"I then opened a door to a small bedroom and found three lurcher-type dogs in a small area which was again littered with faeces and like the rest of the flat the smell of urine and excrement was overpowering.

"None of the dogs had any access to food or water and the bowls that were present were overturned and all were dry."

The Northern Echo: The flat, as it was found by inspectors.The flat, as it was found by inspectors. (Image: RSPCA)

All three dogs were rescued and were examined by a vet who hospitalised them overnight.

A tan and white male lurcher was found to have wounds and cuts, while a black and tan female lurcher had inflamed eye membranes.  

The third dog, Molly, was the only one who was microchipped. She was emaciated and weighed just 9.45kg.

The Northern Echo: Tolly, a male lurcher who was also found at the flat.Tolly, a male lurcher who was also found at the flat. (Image: RSPCA)

Following enquiries, Mr Sanderson was found to have moved to a property in Fairfield, Evenwood.

He was interviewed by the RSPCA in June 2023 about what had happened to the dogs and confirmed that he had been the occupant of the flat but had moved out.

He also said he owned two of the dogs and had taken Molly on from someone who wasn’t looking after her properly. He confirmed conditions at the flat were poor and unsuitable for the dogs.

In addition to the disqualification order, Sanderson, who had admitted two charges contrary to the Animal Welfare Act 2006 at a hearing on 5 March, was also given a six-month community order with five rehabilitation activity requirement days for causing unnecessary suffering to Molly. 

Speaking after the conclusion of the case RSPCA Chief Inspector for Durham, Mark Gent, said: "All three dogs had been badly let down by their owner, left behind in a dirty and hazardous environment without food or water, to the extent where one of them had resorted to eating a bin liner. 

"It was a sad case and it illustrates how important it is to ensure the needs of animals you’re responsible for are always met and to see help and advice if your circumstances change and you are no longer able to provide for them."

The Northern Echo: Molly in her new home.Molly in her new home. (Image: RSPCA)


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The dogs were cared for at the RSPCA's Great Ayton Animal Centre. The black and tan female lurcher was put to sleep on professional advice for welfare and behavioural reasons.

But, Molly and the male lurcher who was named Tolly by staff, have since been adopted and are enjoying life in their new homes. 

The Northern Echo: Tolly in his new home.Tolly in his new home. (Image: RSPCA)

Pictures of the happy pups now show them living their best life with their adoptive families.