By Joshua Robinson –
A man and woman from Leeds have received suspended jail sentences and been disqualified from owning animals for life after failing to provide an adequate diet and failing to seek veterinary care for their emaciated Rottweiler, named Tyson.
Stephen Atterbury (DOB: 29/07/1966) of Sholebroke Street, Leeds, appeared at Kirklees Magistrates Court on Wednesday 17th January for sentencing, after being found guilty of animal welfare offences at an earlier hearing last year.
He was sentenced to 12 weeks custody suspended for 12 months, disqualified from owning all animals indefinitely, and ordered to carry out 30 rehabilitation activity days. He was also ordered to pay costs of £172 and a victim surcharge of £128.
Atterbury caused unnecessary suffering to his pet Rottweiler Tyson, whom he shared with Emma Richardson (DOB: 29/07/1980), who was sentenced at an earlier hearing in November 2023.
The court heard how Tyson was removed from the Leeds property by West Yorkshire Police after the RSPCA received a report with concerns about the body condition of the dog.
The RSPCA had made numerous visits to the address, and although a dog could be heard inside the property, he could not be seen. Officers left advisory notices – which include advice on steps an owner should take for their animals – but Atterbury and Richardson failed to respond.
An RSPCA officer visiting Richardson and Atterbury’s property on 26th April 2021, managed to speak with the occupants, who were initially reluctant to allow the RSPCA officer to see their dog. Atterbury admitted that Tyson was skinny, but said he was too.
Eventually, Tyson was observed by the attending officer, who was extremely concerned about Tyson’s poor bodily condition. The officer described in their witness statement that Tyson was: “obviously underweight and they could see his ribs, spine, hips and his stomach was sunken. His back legs looked to be lacking in muscle and the top of his head was sunken on either side so appeared pointy”.
Atterbury and Richardson claimed that Tyson was eating and toileting normally and the owners did now show any concern about their dog’s condition – and turned down the RSPCA’s offer to take the dog to a vet for an assessment. Atterbury and Richardson were issued with a welfare notice, stating that Tyson would need to be seen by a vet.
An RSPCA inspector returned to the property on 1st May 2021 with the assistance of West Yorkshire Police, and said in a witness statement that she found that: “Tyson was very thin, his ribs, spine and hip bones were prominent even through his thick fur, his face was gaunt, his head was sunken in over his eye sockets, he had dried faeces all over his back end, he smelt terrible, when I stroked his body I was shocked at just how thin he felt.”
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Tyson had not been taken to a vet by his owners and was subsequently removed by West Yorkshire Police and placed into the care of the RSPCA. Tyson was immediately taken to a vet, who said the dog was emaciated with marked muscle wastage over the head, body trunk and limbs, and also showed signs of diarrhoea.
The veterinary surgeon stated: “In my professional opinion (Tyson) had been suffering due to a lack of veterinary treatment or investigation into the degree of emaciation present. This could have been easily avoided in my opinion by the owner seeking veterinary attention or feeding the dog appropriately.”
Tyson was taken to RSPCA Leeds, Wakefield and District Branch where he was put onto a feeding plan and given rehabilitation. Tyson was able to make a full recovery in the care of the RSPCA (pictured above).
Atterbury and Richardson failed to attend court hearings and warrants were issued for their arrest. After nearly a year in RSPCA care, Tyson was able to be released for rehoming on a section 20 order granted by the courts.
In 2023 Atterbury and Richardson were found guilty of animal welfare offences at court in their absence – and were both later sentenced to lifetime disqualifications from owning any animal in addition to suspended jail terms.
RSPCA inspector Taylor said: “This has been a long investigation which started in 2021, and I am relieved to have got Tyson to safety.”
“I would like to give thanks to the RSPCA Leeds Wakefield Branch who rehabilitated Tyson and found this friendly dog a loving new home. Our animal centres and branches carry out amazing work and play a vital role in rehabilitating neglected and rescued animals.”
“RSPCA frontline officers work endlessly to ensure animals like Tyson are given the love, care, respect and safety they deserve – and we are so pleased this story had a happy ending for this dog.”
“I would also like to thank West Yorkshire Police who assisted the RSPCA with the removal of Tyson and with this challenging investigation.”
Tyson’s adopters said: “Tyson has settled in really well and is a big part of our family. His personality and cheekiness is coming out more and more and he’s improving each day. He’s doing really well considering what he’s been through.”