Woman grateful for support after losing five-year legal battle in bid to keep animal rescue shelter

A woman who was ordered to reduce the number of dogs at her animal rescue shelter following a five-year legal battle said she could not be more grateful for the support she received.

Mary Higgins was charged with failing to comply with a noise abatement notice issued in 2015 and told to limit the number of dogs from 16 to two at Peterborough Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday, September 29.

Mrs Higgins was also fined £500 for failure to comply with the notice from Fenland District Council (FDC), ordered to pay £500 in costs and £50 in compensation to a neighbour.

The charge comes following several complaints against Mrs Higgins over noise caused by her dogs at her home on Elloe Bank, Gorefield, which were claimed to be barking 16 hours a day.

“Because some of the dogs are too old, they will have to be put down, but that is my choice because I cannot rehome that age group,” she said.

“I am amazed at how many people saw the court case and not one person said anything bad. One lady said she didn’t know I had any dogs!

“The dog warden has come off her own back to help me; she is taking a few dogs each week, and the German shepherd welfare group are doing the same.”

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Mrs Higgins, who has been running the animal rescue shelter for 40 years, has been told to reduce the number of dogs by January 1, 2021 as part of a criminal behaviour order imposed by FDC.

The former Royal Navy mechanic received support from residents through a petition ahead of the trial and will receive a grant of £9,432 from FDC to help improve her home next month.

Mrs Higgins has already begun to rehome most of her dogs, but believes it is unlikely she will be able to run an animal shelter again.

MORE: Gorefield woman fights on as five-year battle to save animal rescue shelter goes to trial

“The grant is like a miracle,” she said.

“After my husband died 14 years ago, I could not afford improvements. I’ve been paying debts, food and all my vet bills and still have to pay everything else.

“I did not realise people understood what I did. I was devastated on the first day of the trial, but if I let it get to me, I would have gone doolally.

“I would love to have another shelter, but the issues would then start again.”

Councillor Samantha Hoy, FDC portfolio holder for environmental health, said that regular support was offered to Mrs Higgins in a bid to resolve the matter.

“However, warnings and advice went unheeded and noise nuisance continued to be witnessed by officers,” Cllr Hoy said.

“Hopefully this sends a clear message that both the council and the courts take noise nuisance extremely seriously.”