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Hartlepool man left dogs to die in empty house

Teesside Magistrates' Court
Teesside Magistrates' Court

A warrant has been issued for a heartless pet owner who left two dogs to die of starvation.

John Michael Donaldson, 48, is facing a prison sentence after he took money from his father to pay for dog food even though the two terriers were already dead.

The rotting corpses were discovered by a handyman who called at the abandoned house to repair a window, Teesside Magistrates’ Court heard.

Donaldson, of Oak Grove, Hartlepool, was charged with two offences of causing unnecessary suffering to an animal between April and May of this year.

The bench found the case proved in his absence.

The court heard he was traced to another address in Hartlepool, but failed to turn up for interviews with RSPCA inspectors and he failed to turn up at court.

“I am inviting the bench to find the case proved in his absence,” said John Elwood, prosecuting on behalf of the RSPCA.

“The two dogs were a white terrier called Bess, and another terrier the name of which is not known.

“Mr Donaldson had them at a house in Straker Street in Hartlepool where he was living at the time.

“He moved to another address, leaving the dogs at Straker Street.

“Several weeks later, a handyman working on behalf of the property letting agent called to repair a window.

“He made the grim discovery of the rotting and decomposing corpses of the two dogs in an upstairs bedroom.

“The stench was all but unbearable, and there were many flies.”

Mr Elwood told the court it wasn’t possible to say how long the dogs had been dead.

“There was faeces around the house,” he added. “That indicates the dogs had been fed for a period of time.

“Animals can also survive for some time without food, but they cannot survive for very long without water.

“For the dogs to be in the condition they were found, the period of neglect must have been prolonged.”

Donaldson refused to cooperate with the RSPCA investigation.

“Some background is provided by his brother, William,” said Mr Elwood.

“He explains the defendant was caring for their father, who gave him money to feed the dogs at Straker Street.

“William Donaldson says his brother was still taking the money up to July of this year, even though the dogs were dead by then.

“William Donaldson’s view is his brother had got into drugs, and was spending the money on that.

“If this case is found proved, the sentencing guidelines suggest custody.

“The defendant has previously not attended court when required to do so, and has served prison sentences for other offences.

“I anticipate the court will want the defendant to be present for sentence for these matters, and for the imposition of a ban from keeping animals.”