‘Harry Potter puppies’ rescued from cupboard under stairs go on to ‘magical’ lives

A man has been disqualified from keeping animals after RSPCA officers found seven large dogs being kept in filthy, cramped conditions and four puppies were discovered shut in a ‘cold, dark’ cupboard under the stairs.

James Joseph Haydon (DoB: 6/11/98) of Mount Park, Higher Bebington, Wirral, appeared at Liverpool Magistrates’ Court on Thursday (12 August) for sentencing having previously pleaded guilty (14 January) to two offences under the Animal Welfare Act.

RSPCA officers had been called to an address in Higher Bebington in December 2019 and January 2020 after concerns were raised by members of the public about skinny dogs. Officers were concerned about their weight and the conditions they were living in so left an improvement notice. 

The court heard how Inspector Naomi Norris was called to a local kennels a few weeks later to see a dog called Freyer who had been handed over by Haydon. Naomi said: “She was very thin and had saggy teets that still contained milk. It appeared as though she’d recently had puppies and I was concerned for their welfare.

“I returned to the house two days later to follow up on the improvement notice. Haydon shouted out of a window, became aggressive and refused us access to the dogs.”

On 5 February 2020, Naomi and her colleagues joined police as they executed a warrant at the address. Haydon was present.

Naomi said: “In a cupboard under the stairs in the hall we found four six-week-old puppies (pictured). I could see their ribs and spine and the vet said they needed to come out as soon as possible. They were on a cold floor with no bedding, no light and no ventilation.

“There was a large fawn-coloured dog in a small cage in the lounge (pictured above alongside image of him in new home). He had no bedding, food or water and the cage was far too small for him.

“Outside, there were six large dogs in two runs in the garden (pictured above). They all looked thin and the runs were thick with faeces. As the dogs were moving around the faeces was splashing up into the air. There were upturned buckets but no water available to them. These dogs appeared to have deteriorated since the last time I had seen them through the gate on 3 January and I was immediately concerned about them.

“While we were outside I heard a male voice shouting aggressively at something inside. I went into the kitchen but the police were in control, as far as I could see. An officer said Haydon had shouted at the dog in the cage in the lounge, Aries, and the dog had cowered in response and defecated. At that point I looked through the serving hatch and noticed a hammer hanging next to the cage.”

Some of the dogs had cropped ears and docked tails and another, Storm, had a swollen untreated wound to his led and was found wearing a shock collar, which was removed by officers. Eleven dogs and puppies – all cane corso types – were seized by police and taken into RSPCA care. 

The adult dogs – Aries, Winter, Brille, Artemis (female), Diosa, Storm and Akhira (or Hera) – were all taken into the charity’s rescue centres. The puppies Deloris, Ginny (now renamed Nelly), Hermione (pictured, before and after) and Luna – named after Harry Potter characters having been found in a cupboard under the stairs – were all rehomed by one of the charity’s branches.

Haydon said Storm and Artemis belonged to two other individuals, one of whom confirmed that he’d been looking after his dog while his child was in hospital. The dogs were signed over for rehoming but, sadly, Artemis was put to sleep on medical grounds due to serious health problems. 

Storm and Hera were rehomed together where they’re getting on really well with their new family.

Aries (now renamed Acer), Brille (now called Lola), Diosa (now called Callie) and Winter (now Roxy) also all found loving new homes. The dogs, who all have new names, spent a year in the charity’s care before being signed over for rehoming. Callie and Lola were more nervous and wary of people, possibly as a result of their cropped ears and docked tails, and Acer and Roxy were more confident. 

Haydon was also sentenced for three offences relating to a Cane Corso puppy, called Max, who was sold to a member of the public in September and was sadly very sick. 

At court this week, Haydon was sentenced to 12 weeks in prison, suspended for 12 months, and ordered to attend 30 days of rehabilitation activity and thinking skills. He was also ordered to pay £250 in costs and disqualified from keeping all animals for five years. 

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