Couple JAILED for letting 7 children live in filth with 35 dogs despite receiving $8K a month in benefits
Authorities responded to the three-bedroom house in Eastbourne, East Sussex, following reports of a domestic incident on June 14, 2021
EASTBOURNE, ENGLAND: A couple has been jailed for six years after they let their seven children live in "repugnant" conditions in a house crammed with 35 dogs while receiving £7,000 (~$8,000) a month in benefits.
Christopher Bennett, 35, and Gemma Brogan, 41, were sentenced on Monday, November 7, after they pleaded guilty to seven counts of child neglect. The duo reportedly also admitted animal cruelty after being prosecuted by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA). Authorities responded to the three-bedroom house in Eastbourne, East Sussex, following reports of a domestic incident on June 14, 2021, and were shocked by the conditions inside.
The court heard how responding officers had to cover their faces from the stench before they saw a neglected seven-year-old sleeping on a sofa next to a dead dog. The child was reportedly covered in animal feces and was naked apart from a nappy. Her hair was matted and dirty, and she had been severely neglected for years. Authorities said seven children -- aged four through 17 -- and 35 dogs were removed from the property and taken into care. The four youngest are now living with supportive families.
Judge Stephen Mooney told the Lewes Crown Court how Bennett and Brogan had "frittered away £7,000 a month which should have been spent on the children." The couple would have been receiving £84,000 (~$96,000) in benefits per annum. "It is impossible for any person to comprehend the enormity of your failings," the judge said, adding, "Whatever was going on in their relationship, they should have been looking after those children. How do you have 35 dogs, £7,000 in benefits, how is this allowed to happen?"
As mentioned, police responded to the defendant's address after a report of a domestic incident. "Upon entering the address, our officers were shocked about the state of the property and had major concerns for the welfare of all the children," Detective Constable Fiona Ashcroft, of Sussex Police, said in a statement. "The stench as you entered the hallway hit officers hard; they were not able to breathe normally due to the stench. The state of the whole house was shocking and repugnant; it was cluttered and strewn with discarded clothing, litter, rotting food, and animal feces. It looked as if it had been filthy for a number of years. There was a deafening sound of dogs yapping and barking coming from the room in front of the hallway. When the door to the living room was opened, officers were shocked to see dozens of dogs climbing over each other to try and reach the open door. All the dogs looked malnourished and skinny. Their fur was greasy, matted, and covered in each other's feces."
Detective Ashcroft continued, "In amongst the filth and melee of dogs, officers removed a sleeping child from the sofa, who was dressed in just a soiled nappy and had dogs jumping all over them. All seven children, then aged between four and 17, were immediately taken into emergency protection and, following a partnership working with the local authority children's services, they were subsequently rehoused. The four youngest children are now living with supportive families and are learning all the principal, social, mobility, and life skills that our society hinges on." She added, "This was a particularly dreadful example of child neglect. The address is a three-bedroom property which had 10 occupants and 35 dogs crammed in. It is impossible to paint an accurate picture of the full extent of degradation and filth these vulnerable children had to endure. It is unequivocally one of the most awful addresses I have ever been in."
The 35 dogs removed from the property by the RSPCA have since been rehomed. In light of the animal cruelty offenses, Brogan was sentenced to an 18-week prison sentence suspended for two years. She was also given a five-year ban for all animals, 30 rehabilitation activity days, and 100 hours of community service work. Meanwhile, Bennett was sentenced to 18 weeks in prison and disqualified indefinitely from keeping animals, the Daily Mail reported.