Blackpool man left 74 animals to starve

Surviving degus found at Grasmere Road. John Gosnell, 72, has received a lifetime ban on keeping animals. Picture from RSPCA
Surviving degus found at Grasmere Road. John Gosnell, 72, has received a lifetime ban on keeping animals. Picture from RSPCA
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A pensioner has been given a lifetime ban on keeping animals after leaving more than 70 rodents and reptiles to starve to death in his home.

John Gosnell, 72, abandoned his pets in such horrific conditions in his Grasmere Road home that out of the estimated 74 animals, only three degus and one rabbit survived.

A degu cage found at Grasmere Road. John Gosnell, 72, has received a lifetime ban on keeping animals. Picture from RSPCA

A degu cage found at Grasmere Road. John Gosnell, 72, has received a lifetime ban on keeping animals. Picture from RSPCA

The degus had turned to eating the corpses of their dead cagemates to survive, despite being herbivores in the wild.

RSPCA inspector Carl Larsson, said: “This was one of the most disturbing investigations I have ever been involved with during my time with the RSPCA.

“The level of neglect and suffering caused to these animals is unimaginable.”

On June 21 2016, RSPCA and police attended the house on Grasmere Road, following reports that animals had been left behind by Gosnell.

Dead bearded dragons found at Grasmere Road. John Gosnell, 72, has received a lifetime ban on keeping animals. Picture from RSPCA

Dead bearded dragons found at Grasmere Road. John Gosnell, 72, has received a lifetime ban on keeping animals. Picture from RSPCA

Officers located several small cages on the ground floor containing the remains of small rodents.

One cage contained four live degus with no food, water or clean bedding, and six to eight further deceased degus lining the bottom of the cage.

The smallest of the degus died after a few days in vet care.

The other seven cages in the downstairs room contained around 50 deceased rodents, including rats, mice and hamsters. Officers were not able to determine exact numbers due to the level of decomposition.

On the second floor officers found a number of vivariums containing two Nile Monitors, one Black Throated Monitor, seven bearded dragons and a large constrictor snake. All of these animals were deceased. The environments of these animals was found to be inadequate by a vet who specialised in exotics.

More than two weeks later workers clearing out the property discovered a black and white female rabbit living on the ground floor under piles of bin bags.

The animal was also found to be suffering due to being underweight and having an eye problem.

An RSPCA inspector who spoke with Gosnell before entering the property was told there were no animals inside. In a later interview he said this was because he believed they would have died in the time since he last fed them.

Mr Larsson said: “On entering the house it became apparent it was in a terrible state with an overpowering smell. The conditions were appalling.

“The surviving three degus and the rabbit were all successfully rehomed by Blackpool and North Lancashire RSPCA Branch.”

Gosnell, who now lives in Leamington Spa, pleaded guilty to five offences under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, including two charges of causing unnecessary suffering to four degus, one charge of causing unnecessary suffering to a rabbit and two charges of failing to meet the needs of multiple deceased rodents and reptiles.

On February 13 at Birmingham Magistrates Court, Gosnell received a lifetime ban forbidding him from keeping animals. He will not be able make an application for the termination of the ban for 10 years.

At a previous hearing he received a suspended prison sentence of eight weeks and was ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £115. He was not banned from keeping animals at that time.