A WOMAN who left her dogs to starve to death in “filthy” conditions was today starting a prison sentence.

Tracey Munden, also known as Tracey Clarke, was handed an 18-week sentence and banned from keeping animals for 10 years at Worcester Magistrates Court yesterday after admitting 19 charges relating to animal cruelty.

RSPCA inspectors and police entered Munden’s former home in Hathaway Close, Dines Green, Worcester, on May 4 after reports from members of the public and her ex-husband that the animals had been abandoned.

In the kitchen they found a dead Staffordshire bull terrier-type dog looking like “a skeleton with skin pulled over it” lying on its own excrement in a cage with no food or water. A metal bowl nearby contained urine and faeces.

An “extremely skinny” bull mastiff was also found in a cage without food or water, while a jack russell terrier was “running free” downstairs and an emaciated water dragon lizard was being kept in a vivarium without a heat source.

Upstairs, two “nervous” chihuahuas were discovered shut in a bedroom while in the next room a Yorkshire terrier “close to death” was found in a tiny cage.

The remaining pets were signed over to the RSPCA and all but one have since been found homes.

Nick Sutton, prosecuting, said the animals had suffered for between two and three weeks and they had been kept in “filthy” conditions with “urine and excrement everywhere”.

He said Munden’s husband had left the house in February after the breakdown of their marriage and she had remained at the property with the animals until a month before the raid.

In an interview, the 39-year-old claimed she had been an “excellent owner” up until a few months ago and she had visited the house “virtually every day” since leaving.

Munden claimed she had attempted to rehome the dogs with friends and neighbours, but admitted she had not been “paying them enough attention”.

Mr Sutton said: “While this woman was going about her business, these animals were, in one case anyway, dying. Whatever your matrimonial situation, there is simply no excuse.”

Mark Turnbull, defending, said his client accepted full responsibility and was remorseful.

He said the neglect had unfolded against the backdrop of a violent relationship with her now ex-husband and the animals had previously been family pets.

Mr Turnbull claimed that many of the animals had been bought as presents by him, and Munden was afraid to return to the house for fear he would be waiting there for her.

He also said she had suffered a number of personal problems including ill-health and depression.

She is currently signed off from her job at Worcestershire County Council.

Jailing Munden, now of King George Close, Bromsgrove, chairman of the bench Paul Vaughan said her crimes crossed the custody threshold.

She wept hysterically as she was handcuffed and led away.

After the hearing RSPCA inspector Pippa Boyd welcomed the sentence.

“Such neglect causing the death of one dog and such suffering to other animals is appalling and therefore a disqualification is required and a custodial sentence is appropriate,” she said.

“In such situations, there are many charities who are able to assist and the RSPCA has a scheme where it will foster animals if people find themselves in a violent relationship.”

A spokesman for Worcestershire County Council later declined to say if Munden was still employed by the authority.

Distressing scenes of neglect

A WOMAN has described the distressing scenes of neglect she witnessed at the Worcester home of Tracey Munden.

The neighbour, who wishes to retain her anonymity, said she first reported the neglect at the end of February after being invited to the address in Hathaway Close, Dines Green.

She said she saw one of the dogs in a cage in the living room, which had obviously not been cleaned for some time.

The woman, who owns five dogs herself, said: “It was reported that the dogs had been abandoned for two weeks, but the neglect had been going on since February.

“It was very emotional. It’s very sad to be honest, because there was no need for the situation she got herself in. There is no excuse.

“I asked her if she wanted any help to walk them or feed them but she didn’t want to know. It’s quite distressing on my part.”

The neighbour confirmed that Munden used to come back to the house for 10 minutes every five days to collect her post.

“She hasn’t been the most responsible owner,” she said.

“But it’s never been this bad before, only since she met her new partner.

“There’s still no excuse for how she left the dogs.

“I saw them myself, they were not in a good state at all.”