LAST WEEK, The Herald reported that a couple from Llanelli pleaded guilty to five counts of animal abuse, relating to failing to ensure the welfare of a dog, five cats, a hamster and a snake.
Prosecutor John Tarrant of the RSPCA informed the court that Natalie and Steve Alker of Waterloo Street in Llanelli were not meeting the needs of their animals in that they were not being kept in a suitable environment, despite the fact that the animals had reasonable body conditions.
Since, Steve Alker – a former professional darts player – has taken to the internet to give his side of the story.
Last Thursday (Apr 7), magistrates at the Llanelli court heard that the Alkers’ property was in ‘filthy condition’, with animal faeces and household rubbish everywhere with a ‘very unpleasant smell’ coming from the house. It was also very hot inside the property, ‘as if the central heating had been left on at an extremely high temperature over a long period of time’.
Talking about the snake, Mr Tarrant said: “The officers found two empty glass cabinets with no animals in them, and a third tank with a small snake inside, which was so thin that its backbone was visible.
“The heat and humidity in the vivarium was not suitable for the snake, which was highlighted by the accumulation of skin and large amounts of regurgitated food which was in the bottom of the tank. RSPCA workers state that the snake would have died if this treatment had continued for a few months down the line.”
The prosecutor added: “Since having their pets taken by the RSPCA, the couple have two additional cats living with them at their new address. There are some outstanding issues with the cat, snake and corgi dog where the owners haven’t yet signed them over to the RSPCA.”
The High Judge told the couple: “I’m not going to send you to prison today. We’re going to disqualify you from keeping animals for a lengthy period of time. All of your animals – your dog, cats and snake, need to be taken into the care of the RSPCA.
Steve Alker spoke up, telling the court: “Looking after the house just got on top of us. The dog belongs to my step-daughter and the cat we wanted to keep is 13 years old, and we’ve had her since she was a kitten.
“Once they’ve passed on, we won’t get any more animals, but we really want to keep those. I’m giving the snake to my friend in north Wales who owns over 100 snakes.
“I would like to apologise to the council and to the RSPCA for the state of the house.”
The Alkers were disqualified from keeping animals for 10 years and will have their animals forfeited and taken by the RSPCA.
The couple were issued with community orders, where they will have to complete a 10 day Rehabilitation Activity Requirement and 70 hours of unpaid work over the next year.
They also had to pay prosecution costs of £300, as well as a £60 victim surcharge.
This week, Mr Alker took to the internet to give his side of the story.
He said: “The house started to get into a mess last year. My wife suffers with major depression and was coming home from work, eating then going to bed; she would spend all her spare time in bed. I found it hard to look after her, the house and the animals so things became worse as I have problems with my knees and back.
“On two occasions we nearly split up so one day we sat down and had a chat. We decided to move house and find homes for the cats that we had and just have the dog, which belongs to her daughter, and the 13-year-old cat we have had since a kitten. Nat would start looking for a house and I would start to look for homes for the cats.
“I took three to Woking but that was it, I couldn’t find any more homes. I went online for cat rescue places, all I found initially was a waiting list – I didn’t need that, I needed the cats to go ASAP. I came across the Cat Action Trust , who never answered their phone so I went down to pay them a visit, but couldn’t find them. They never returned my calls or messages I left them. In the meantime Nat had found us a house, so we moved but couldn’t take the cats with us.
“As we had a couple of months left it gave me time to keep looking for homes for the cats. The cats had to stay in the old house but we went up there every day to feed them and check on them. They were not neglected, the cats were making a mess everywhere during the six weeks.”
He continued: “I found the Cats Protection League online and, before I could get hold of them, the R S P C A turned up. A lot o f the mess was made by the RSPCA trying to catch the cats – everything got thrown around.
“I’m not saying the house was tidy; it was cluttered and untidy, but most of the mess was made after we moved. Now we have a nice house and things are looking positive for us.
“One guarantee I can give is that the animals were not neglected, they were fed and watered daily and that they would have only been there for another week or so.
“I feel I have to put our side of the story across as you only read one side. If you have read all of this then thanks for reading.”
At the end of the statement, Mr Alker added: “When the magistrate asked what the condition of the animals was, he was told they were in good condition and gave them a clean bill of health.”
Council end contract with Plas Y Bryn Care Home
FOLLOWING significant concerns with its financial position and an inability to pay their staff and creditors, Carmarthenshire County Council has had to give notice on its contract to provide care with Plas Y Bryn Care Home, Cwmgwili.
The residents at Plas Y Bryn are being supported by the council to find new homes by a dedicated team of social workers and managers.
Whilst this has come as a great disappointment to the Council, we have been providing significant financial support to ensure that the care company can meet its financial obligations and that care is not impacted. This has included bringing regular payments in advance to enable the company to pay staff salaries.
As a result, the council has had to take the difficult decision to give notice to the care company. The decision has not been taken lightly and we share the deep concerns that the people living and working in the care home will have.
There have been continued attempts to work with the operators to understand their financial position. A variety of alternative options have been considered but, unfortunately, due to the legal and financial circumstances that surround the care company, there are no viable solutions that can be found at this time.
We would like to recognise and thank the staff within Plas Y Bryn Care Home for their commitment to delivering high-quality care and highlight that the quality of care has at no point been a contributing factor to this difficult decision.
Cllr. Jane Tremlett, Cabinet Member for Health and Social Services, Carmarthenshire County Council, said:
“The welfare of the residents at Plas Y Bryn is of the utmost importance and we have acted quickly to support the care home to continue to provide excellent care of its residents.
“We are supporting residents along with their families and next of kin, during what is a very difficult and distressing situation, to find suitable and adequate accommodation for them to find new homes.
“On behalf of the council, I would like to express my gratitude to the staff at Plas Y Bryn for their invaluable work at the care home. We are also supporting them during this hard period as they continue to provide care to the residents.”
Ahead of the contract coming to an end, the council will be working with people and their families over the coming weeks to find new homes where they can receive the care and support that they require. Wherever possible, we will do our best to ensure that people are supported to move to locations of choice. Residents are also being provided with access to advocacy services to support them through this difficult time.
Carmarthenshire County Council cracks down on fly-tippers
CARMARTHENSHIRE County Council handed out a total of £4,350 in fixed penalty notices (FPN’s) related to fly-tipping last month.
17 FPN’s were issued as a result of CCTV footage at Carway recycling facility, resulting in a total of £2,675 in fines being given.
- £125 FPN issued to a Carway female for depositing a bag
- £400 FPN issued to a Carway male for depositing black refuse bags, blue recycling bags and paint pots at the site on several different occasions
- £125 FPN issued to a Carway female for depositing a bag
- £400 FPN issued to a Carway resident for depositing blue recycling bags and other items
Fixed penalty notices issued at other locations in the county include:
- £125 FPN issued to a female for depositing a black refuse bag at Red Roses recycling facility.
- £300 FPN issued to a Gorseinon resident who failed in his duty of care when he had his household waste removed by a person not registered as a waste carrier.
- £400 FPN issued to a Llanelli resident for fly tipping after CCTV footage provided by a member of the public led to his identification. The male was seen driving along the rear lane between James Street and Swansea Road in Llanelli where he was seen throwing a blue recycling bag from his moving vehicle into the lane.
- £300 FPN issued to a Llanelli resident who failed in their duty of care after their waste was found in an overgrown verge/hedgerow in the rear lane of their street. The resident claimed to have paid a male to dispose of their waste but failed to provide their details.
- £300 FPN issued to a Llanelli business for failing to produce waste transfer notes after waste produced by the business was found illegally deposited in Swiss Valley, Llanelli. The business was issued a notice requiring them to produce waste transfer notes within 7 days which they failed to do. The business was also issued a legal notice to ensure any waste from the business is disposed of correctly in the future.
Cllr Aled Vaughan Owen, Cabinet Member for Climate Change, Decarbonisation and Sustainability said: “The introduction of CCTV at Carway recycling facility has enabled us to clamp down on the unlawful dumping of waste at this site. I hope this serves as a reminder that all waste deposited at our recycling facilities must be placed in the correct container, with all bags and boxed removed from the site.”
“The Council’s CCTV strategy will be extended to other recycling facilities in the county in the coming months to help combat instances of fly tipping in these areas.”
“I would urge anyone who needs to dispose of waste to do so responsibly. We have recycling centres at Nantycaws (Carmarthen), Trostre (Llanelli), Wernddu (Ammanford) and Whitland as well as a bulky waste collection service and weekly household waste collections. When paying for rubbish to be disposed of, please use a licensed business and ensure that you are given a valid waste transfer note when waste is collected.”
For more information on disposing of waste please visit Carmarthenshire.gov.wales/recycling
Wales stands firm in support for Ukraine￼
IN THE latest update on the Ukraine crisis, Wales’s Minister for Social Justice Jane Hutt thanked all those households across Wales who have come forward to offer their homes to Ukrainians fleeing the War and encouraged more households to provide this vital support.
APPEAL FOR MORE HOST FAMILIES
The Minister for Social Justice said: “I’m delighted to say that over 5,650 people from Ukraine, sponsored by the Welsh Government and Welsh households, have already arrived in the UK.
“More than 8,200 visas have now been issued to people from Ukraine who have sponsors in Wales, so we expect the number of arrivals to continue to grow in the coming weeks.
“Thousands of Welsh households sponsored Ukrainians to arrive in Wales and committed to hosting them for at least six months.
“As we move into the autumn, we approach the end of that initial period.
“We hope hosts and Ukrainians will agree to extend many of those placements, but we need additional hosts to support those who cannot continue living where they are.
“To ensure a warm welcome to Wales, I’m inviting households across Wales to come forward and open their homes to welcome those seeking sanctuary.
“We’re immensely thankful to all those across Wales acting as hosts to Ukrainians, but more households must come forward.
“I completely understand that there are those who want to help but may not have the resources to do so, given the circumstances we’re all facing with the cost-of-living crisis.”
WALES WILL STEP UP TO THE PLATE
Jane Hutt continued: “What we all know, and has been proven countless times, is that the people of Wales are one of the most generous across the globe, and I’m sure we will step up to the plate once again.
“The idea of hosting can be daunting. That’s why we have funded Housing Justice Cymru to provide a Host Support service which includes expert and reliable information, training, advice, and guidance for people hosting, or those considering hosting, Ukrainians in Wales.
“More information on sessions and training can be found on the Housing Justice Cymru website. We also publish regularly updated guidance for hosts and sponsors at gov. wales/ukraine.
“We still need many more households to consider whether they could provide a home for those in need. This would normally be a commitment to hosting for 6 to 12 months.
“If anyone is considering this, we encourage them to register their interest at gov.wales/offerhome, and to attend one of the ‘Introduction to Hosting’ sessions, facilitated by Housing Justice Cymru. You won’t need to continue the process if you decide it is not for you.
“We have also partnered with Airbnb.org to ensure very short-term emergency placements can be provided to prevent homelessness.
“If you cannot host for more than 6 months but you could offer your property for up to 30 days at a time, you may also be able to contribute. Visit gov.wales/offerhome and follow the link to the Airbnb.org platform.”
Finally, the Minister stated: “We will continue to communicate with those who host Ukrainians, with updated guidance and information to support the valuable role you are undertaking.
“To all those that are already hosting and to those that are considering hosting, thank you, we owe you all a huge debt of gratitude.”
WESTMINSTER MUST BACK HOSTS
DURING COST-OF-LIVING CRISIS
Conservative MS Mark Isherwood raised how the cost-of-living crisis affects Ukrainian refugees.
Where families had taken in those fleeing Russian aggression, he noted a risk of sponsorships not continuing beyond six months because the hosts cannot afford the rise in fuel costs.
He asked the Minister what discussions she’d had with the UK Government about increasing the £350 contribution to households who’d taken in Ukrainian refugees.
The Minister agreed with Mark Isherwood that ending a specific ministerial post dealing with refugees was regrettable.
She noted a lack of information from the UK Government over the summer months and since Liz Truss replaced Boris Johnson as head of the Conservative Government.
Ms Hutt said: “We asked for an increase at least to £500, or up again, doubling to £700 per month. An urgent decision is needed regarding this as they reach the end of their six-month period.
“That period is underway, so we’re writing to all hosts to see if they will continue.”
UK GOVERNMENT URGED
TO PICK UP THE PHONE
The Minister thanked Mark Isherwood for introducing her to a charity offering support in North Wales, Link, and hoped that he and his colleagues would bring pressure to bear on their Westminster colleagues to ensure those in need from Ukraine and those in Wales helping them received support.
She added: “I look forward perhaps that we might have some telephone calls from the Prime Minister and other Ministers to us in Government. We must engage with them and follow this through.
“There is a huge job of work to be done here. We’re taking responsibility in the way I’ve outlined, funding our welcome centres and paying thank-you payments to hosts if they support a family who initially arrived in Wales under the Ukraine family scheme.
“That’s not happening in England. The commitment that we’re making is considerable.
“I hope everyone will join us today, saying that we need to press for those answers in terms of financial support.”
THE THREAT OF HOMELESSNESS
Sioned Williams of Plaid Cymru raised the spectre of Ukrainian refugees becoming homeless in Wales due to a lack of financial support and the end of existing hosting and housing placements.
The Minister praised the work of local authorities across Wales supporting refugees.
She said: “There are very imaginative programmes. That includes a whole range of issues like repurposing empty buildings.
“Local authorities are really coming up with a whole range of ways in which we can support people, perhaps, from a welcome centre, or a host family, into that intermediate accommodation, and then on to other longer-term accommodation.”
Pembrokeshire currently houses around 200 Ukrainian refugees, with the demand for assistance outstripping the availability of suitable accommodation.
NOT ONE PENNY FROM WESTMINSTER
TO SUPPORT FAMILIES FLEEING WAR
Responding to a question from Mabon ap Gwynfor about problems housing family groups, Jane Hutt hit out at the lack of support from the UK Government and how it’s u-turned on a commitment to help families.
“The UK Government has never given a penny towards the family scheme.
“The former Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, in one of his last PMQs, actually said that he thought the Ukraine family scheme should get the same funding and support as the Homes for Ukraine scheme. It’s never happened.
“We have provided thank-you payments to people who are hosting Ukrainian families. It’s all Welsh Government money; it’s not UK Government, because they don’t provide a penny. And also, the British Red Cross—£246,000—who are actually supporting Ukrainian families who are hosting family members under the Ukrainian family scheme.”
On Wednesday, September 28, Eluned Morgan, Wales’s Health Minister, announced the continuation of free healthcare in Wales to Ukrainian residents displaced by the ongoing conflict.
The exemption will continue to apply unless there’s a significant change in circumstances in Ukraine.
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