Justice for Bear as owner is jailed
10:30am Thursday 8th November 2012 in News
A man who left his pet dog and iguana alone in a filthy flat to suffer a "stressful and painful death" will spend Christmas in prison, magistrates have ruled.
Stephen Nixon, aged 38, of Water Street, Pembroke Dock, was sent to prison for 18 weeks on Tuesday after causing unnecessary suffering to his German shepherd dog Bear, and pet iguana, between May 1 and June 12.
Last month he pleaded guilty to four animal welfare charges, including not providing the pets with adequate food and water.
The court heard that the alarm was raised when only the "occasional bark" was heard coming from the house by a neighbour.
On June 11th, police officers found Bear’s body lying on top of a pile of clothing in the bathroom, and the iguana was discovered in a small vivarium.
Faeces and domestic waste was scattered throughout the property and there was no sign of food or water available to either animal.
Jon Tarrant, prosecuting for the RSPCA, said: "The iguana had gone a period of three to four weeks without water until succumbing".
He added that the iguana would have started to suffer after two weeks of deprivation because of the "drying mucus from the mouth and eyes".
He said: "Death from dehydration is stressful and painful, and would have caused the animals a lot of stress and anxiety."
Mr Tarrant added that Bear would have suffered from the effects of dehydration for a week or possibly more.
Defence solicitor Michael Kelleher said that Nixon, who had "inadequate social skills", had been referred to the community learning disabilities team.
He said: "Everybody stands to be judged by law whether they have disabilities or not and clearly this is a serious case."
He said that considerable publicity from local newspapers and social media, some of which had been "extremely nasty", was making Nixon "fear for his own safety".
Bear's death sparked an online petition calling for ‘Justice for Bear’, which collected more than 1,100 signatures.
Mr Kelleher added that the defendant was "terrified of going to prison", and was desperate to support his pregnant fiancée.
Nixon's charges also included failing to take steps to ensure that the needs of the dog were met by providing a suitable environment that was hygienic and free from hazards, along with the needs of the iguana to provide a suitable environment that was hygienic, with adequate space, heat and lighting.
Presiding magistrate Paul Lucas said: "In this county we uphold human rights and animal rights.
"The two animals were supposed to be your pets, and they died appalling deaths, being starved of water and food. I cannot even imagine their suffering and despair."
Nixon was sent to prison for 18 weeks, and was banned for life from owning or keeping any pets.