Shropshire pair get animals ban over treatment of pet cat

By Rob Smith | Newport | Crime | Published:

A couple whose cat was put down after it suffered serious unexplained injuries have been banned from keeping animals

Ashley Longhurst and Jessica Smith, both 23, each admitted causing unnecessary suffering to one-year-old cat Belle.

Belle suffered unexplained injuries on three occasions in under a year and the pair were told by magistrates that they could have faced jail.

However, the court heard that there was not enough evidence to say that the injuries were “non-accidental” after experts were unable to agree on the possible causes

At her last trip to Tern Vets in Newport on September 4 last year, Belle had large swelling on the back of her head, two bruise-like marks on her ear and a swollen nose. Metalwork installed to treat a previous leg injury had also been displaced.

She was taken into RSPCA care and initially improved, but her health deteriorated and she was euthanised in October, Telford Magistrates Court heard.

Smith had previously taken Belle to the vet with a fractured hip in April 2018, and again that July with a broken leg. The couple blamed Belle’s hip injury after she fell off a lizard tank, and her head injuries on getting caught in a cage.

However, for the broken leg they had no explanation. After the third trip in September, police opened an investigation.



Judge Kevin Grego said: “Between April and September last year this cat suffered, at separate times, three serious injuries. It does look suspiciously like these were non-accidental injuries but we haven’t heard evidence of that and that is not what they are in court for.”

He said that if prosecutors had been able to prove either or both of the pair were responsible for the “more serious matters” of deliberately causing the cat’s injuries, they would have faced prison.

Longhurst, of Roman Way, in Hinstock, near Market Drayton, admitted causing suffering by failing to provide a safe environment for the cat and also by not taking her to the vet in a timely manner.

Smith, of Greenacres Way, in Newport, admitted one count of failing to provide a safe environment.


Longhurst was banned from owning or looking after animals for 10 years, and Smith for five years. Longhurst was also ordered to do 150 hours of unpaid work and pay £900 towards the RSPCA’s costs. Smith must pay £300 in costs.

The judge said Smith’s lesser sentence reflected the fact that she had been a “more responsible” pet-owner.

Representing Longhurst, Jemma Gordon said that he had been unemployed for more than a year in part due to depression and anxiety, and that he "essentially lives off his mother".

For Smith, Alex Barber said his client had been "traumatised" by her experience with Belle and did not want to keep animals again.

Rob Smith

By Rob Smith

Senior reporter for the Shropshire Star based at Ketley in Telford.

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