'˜I wish we had never given her away'
A young mum has spoken of her devastation and guilt after her beloved pet dog was found dead in the abandoned home of her new owner.
Zoe Hargreaves’ four-year-old Staffordshire bull terrier, Rosie, was left to die alone and starving in a freezing cold Blackpool flat by her new owner Jamie Higgins.
The unemployed 28-year-old, now of Dodgson Road, Preston, pleaded guilty to two offences of causing unnecessary suffering to an animal at Blackpool Magistrate’s Court last week.
Zoe, 34, who lives at Birkbeck Place in Fleetwood, said: “All I have done is cry. The guilt is unbearable.
“I handed her over to him with the promise that he was going to look after her, to love her. It’s just horrendous.”
Rosie, who was also a pet to Zoe’s partner Shaun, 26, and son Kian, 15, was rehomed last year when Zoe fell pregnant with her second child, Bear, who is now one, and it was feared the dog would become overly-protective of the baby.
The family chose Higgins as her new owner after months of careful planning.
Zoe said: “He seemed like the perfect choice. We home-checked him and his flat was spotless, he came and met her a few times to see if she liked him and he promised to keep us in touch with her. He would send us pictures of her chilled out on the beach.
“I still can’t believe what happened. I can’t believe it’s the same person who would do this to her.”
Rosie was found alongside fellow Staffordshire bull terrier Prince inside Higgins’ flat in Bolton Street, Blackpool, by a neighbour in February.
They had no water and the neighbour gave them some, but when he returned the next morning he found Rosie dead and called the authorities.
A vet found both dogs very underweight, with Prince described as having a bodily condition of two out of 10 and weighing 10.9 kilos.
Now Zoe has pleaded with other pet owners not to make the same mistake.
She said: “Don’t rehome your pets. Don’t give them to anyone. We spent months with Higgins and we thought he was perfect, and look what’s happened.
“Rosie was so loyal and so loving. I can’t put into words what she meant to us. I wish we had never given her away.
“I want to tell the world, if you can’t keep your pet, don’t get one in the first place.
“If you have to rehome it, take it to a proper rehoming centre – people with experience. Don’t try to do it yourself because no matter how much you think you’re doing the right thing it could end up like this, and the guilt is horrendous.”
At Higgins’ trial last week, prosecutor Jonathan Fail said: “When interviewed by an RSPCA inspector, Higgins said he was not currently staying at his flat because it was so cold it was making him ill. He felt the flat was not suitable for him to occupy, but it was OK for the dogs.”
Steven Townley, defending, said his client left the flat after having trouble with a neighbour, being assaulted and having problems with the heating system, but said he returned morning and night to feed and walk both Rosie and Prince, who went on to make a full recovery.
Higgins was banned from keeping animals for five years, and was sentenced to an 18-month community order with up to 25 days rehabilitation, with a 12-week tagged curfew from 8pm to 7am. He was ordered to pay £100 costs and an £85 victims’ surcharge.
RSPCA inspector Vicki Westwood, said: “This was a really upsetting case.
“Rosie was dead on the sofa when we found her. She was still wearing her harness, and Prince was so emaciated you could see his bones through his skin.
“The house was so cold that what food the dogs did get would probably have been burnt off trying to keep warm.
“We were too late to help Rosie, but I’m so glad that things have worked out well for Prince, who is now recovered and happy in a new home.”