By Sandra Pearce
A wildlife expert has been ordered to pay £100,000 towards RSPCA vet and boarding fees after keeping his exotic animals in ‘unspeakable’ conditions.
Stephen Rowlands, who runs Tropical Inc and has appeared on ITV’s Alan Titchmarsh Show showing off his exotic creatures, was given a 12-week jail sentence by a court, suspended for two years, after admitting 34 counts of not providing a variety of animals with a suitable habitat.
The 32-year-old was ordered to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work as well as paying legal costs of £6,100, further costs of £100, and an £80 victim surcharge. He was also ordered to pay £100,000 towards the animal’s boarding and veterinary costs.
Nick Sutton, prosecuting for the RSPCA, told Worcester Magistrates Court how a police raid on Rowlands’ premises in Dunhampton, near Droitwich, in January revealed that 74 animals were left in four cramped rooms, covered with excrement and without electricity, light and food.
They included meerkats, parrots, monkeys, turtles, owls, snakes and an armadillo.
Veterinary fees and boarding costs incurred by the RSPCA reached a total of £168,038.04.
Tropical Inc’s website says it offers parties and educational talks on exotic animals.
The prosecutor said: “The society’s view is this is a commercial business. The animals are the stock and trade of this business – it’s open to be seen.”
Dominic Benthall, defending, said Rowlands had since taken steps to improve the animals’ accommodation as well as employing a veterinary nurse, part-time carer and cleaner and students to help his work.
Deputy district judge Nalla Lawrence said the conditions the animals had been kept in were ‘unspeakable’ but he felt disqualification from owning animals was a ‘step too far’ due to the ‘tremendous progress’ Rowlands had made since the raid. More....