The Daily Telegraph

Holiday couple left family pets to starve (then tried to blame mother-in-law)

Parents ordered to apologise to children after RSPCA broke into house to find dead cat in kitchen

- Rozina Sabur

A COUPLE who left their pets to starve at home while they went on holiday in France, then tried to blame the wife’s mother for the neglect, have escaped a jail term.

David and Zara Hicks, of Chessingto­n, Surrey, had admitted three animal welfare offences and were given suspended sentences, banned from keeping animals for 12 years, and ordered to apologise to their children.

The court had heard how RSPCA inspectors were called to the Hicks’s house by neighbours on Sept 3, 2016 and had left food and water in the garden after spotting Honey, a poodle, and Twitch, a tabby.

RSPCA officers executed a warrant three days later, entering the house with police after the couple and their two children had still not returned.

On entry, they found a second cat dead on top of the cooker, the court heard. All the animals were flea-infested and the dead animal had a longterm illness that had gone untreated, suggesting a long period of neglect.

The pets were taken to a vet and have since been found a new home.

Andrew Wiles, prosecutin­g, said David Hicks had tried to blame his mother-in-law, saying they had arranged for her to check their two cats and dog.

However, she gave a statement saying she had not been asked to look in on the animals and had never been asked to care for them in the past.

Mr Wiles said: “Police found a cat lying dead on the kitchen cooker. In another part of the kitchen, barricaded as it were, there were a total of 10 bowls or saucepans in which were small amounts of water or food.

“There was also a calendar on the wall which was marked France, indicating they were away from August 28, to return on the Sept 8.”

David Hicks said: “We’re just terribly, terribly sorry. It’s embarrassi­ng. We have two wonderful children and we will have to tell them they aren’t going to have pets any more.”

The technician, 41, was given a 16week sentence, suspended for two years, and 160 hours’ community work plus £400 costs. Zara Hicks, 38, a payroll manager, was sentenced to 20 weeks, suspended for two years, 200 hours’ community work, and £400 costs.

Sentencing at Wimbledon magistrate­s’ court, Jane Spencer told the couple: “The offence is so serious that only a custodial sentence is suitable ... if you had not pleaded guilty then both of your sentences would not have been suspended and you would be serving a prison sentence.”

Kerry Gabriel, the RSPCA chief inspector, said: “It’s not enough to leave a couple of bowls of food down.”

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