Early in 2002 the RSPCA were called to some outbuildings just outside of Bath. Inside 32 dogs were found in appalling conditions, 21 of which were Sloughis. These Sloughis were bred and kept by Sue Harper and Rodney Reed. Nothing was really known about what happened publicly until on September 20 2002, when Maria Goodman (then Secretary of the UK Sloughi Club, now The American Sloughi Association) made comments on an internet list. She stated that she had photos of the dogs when they were taken and that they were not in the terrible state that was reported on by the RSPCA, and that although the premises could have been kept cleaner – the dogs were not beaten or starved.
These dogs that Maria Goodman claimed were not in a terrible state were kept in sheds piled high with their own excrement. Some of the dogs were kept in crates stacked on top of each other, so caked in their own faeces that the Inspectors had trouble opening the doors of the crates to remove them. Three of the older dogs were so deformed from being continuously crated that they had to be euthanized immediately. All of the dogs were suffering with skin and ear infections, they were all covered in their own faeces and extremely underweight.
Unfortunately, due to the lack of communication at the time between the Sloughi Club, the Kennel Club and the RSPCA it was only Sue Harper and Rodney Reed that were successfully prosecuted by the RSPCA. They were fined, sentenced to community service and banned from keeping animals for life. If the RSPCA had communicated with the Kennel Club at that time they would have seen that not only did many of the dogs owned by Sue Harper and Rodney Reed also have shared ownership with Jacky Saunders over the years – but that given the phenomenal amount of dogs bred over this time, there were still a great number of dogs missing. If the Sloughi Club themselves had wanted to do right by the breed, then they too would have questioned the numbers of dogs bred and also alerted the RSPCA as to numbers of dogs outstanding. Instead the Sloughi Club stood by Jacky Saunders, she remained the President of the Club and no more was said.
In fact despite the fact that these dogs had been found in such an appalling state, later that year, Maria Goodman transferred one of her own Akh-Anubis Dogs to Jacky Saunders (Akh-Anubis Cobla Sawls) which enabled yet a further litter to be produced in these conditions . Sue Harper and Rodney Reed also transferred 3 dogs to Jacky Saunders at the same time , Allegra Amelinda Douri Donatella, Kamet Rheanna (who later turned up in rescue in 2005). If the RSPCA had taken any notice of these transfers then it would have been clear that there were dogs elsewhere. Sadly the RSPCA do not seem interested in doing even the most basic of research in these cases.
It was a long and difficult process to rehabilitate the dogs that went into rescue in 2002. Given the sensitive nature of the breed, these dogs) most of whom had not been exposed to anything outside of these sheds) found it an extremely traumatic process. They were all extremely agoraphobic and preferred to hide in their kennels rather than go outside. Slowly but surely, and with the dedication of the staff who worked at the rescue centres, they came out of their shell. Although it took months to achieve, eventually these dogs started to enjoy life, enjoy open paddocks to run in and slowly but surely they all got rehomed. And seemingly that was the end of that.
That was until September 2003 when another number of Sloughis were found on the same premises as the 2002 dogs were seized from. These dogs again were removed, rehabilitated and rehomed by the RSPCA. It is unclear as to whether the RSPCA thought these dogs belonged to Sue Harper and Rodney Reed or to Jacky Saunders and why still no-one questioned where all these Sloughis, a supposed rare breed, were coming from.
In May 2005 a member of the public, who had previously adopted two of the rescue Sloughis, made enquiries as to whether anyone was monitoring the welfare of the Sloughis belonging to Jacky Saunders given her former close association with Sue Harper.
As nobody appeared to be doing this she took it upon herself to check. When arriving at the property belonging to Jacky Saunders, she found it deserted. However she did find 19 Sloughis locked in sheds on the derelict ground surrounding the property. The sheds inside were approximately 2 ½ foot x 2 ½ foot square, with 2 dogs per shed. On closer inspection she could see that these dogs had no bedding, were laying in their own mess and had no water. This was during the very hot period in May and given that these sheds had tin roofing one can only imagine the temperatures inside. She reported this to the RSPCA. After repeated phone calls, finally after five and a half weeks (despite being told of the chronic conditions the dogs were in) the RSPCA Inspector subsequently came down and took these dogs from the out houses into their care. We have since been told that he could only visit the dogs with an RSPCA vet present. We have not been told why it would take five and half weeks to locate an RSPCA vet.
11 of the dogs were signed over by Jacky Saunders into the RSPCA’s care and subsequently for rehoming, 8 were held by the RSPCA pending a court case which would determine what happened to them. Again the Sloughi Club had no idea what was going on, and some members in fact were extremely defensive of Jacky Saunders saying that she was a kind and informative lady who had done a lot for the breed over the past 30 years. Jacky Saunders herself was informing people that the RSPCA were just ‘looking after her dogs’ while she had some building work done at home. It seemed that despite history, many members of the Breed Club seemed to believe her version of events. Yet again they had not bothered to question the amount of litters that Jacky Saunders had produced over the years and not once questioned what had happened to all of those dogs.
The last litter that Jacky Saunders bred, as far as we know, was in December 2003, using a Sue Harper bred dog (transferred to her during 2002) and a Maria Goodman (Akh-anubis) bred dog (also transferred to her during 2002). Four of the five puppies turned up in rescue, the fifth never turned up. In September 2005, Maria Goodman denied on a public forum that Jacky Saunders had used her dog for this litter, and alleged that she had removed the dog from her and re-homed him elsewhere before this litter was sired. However evidence to the contrary was found in her Breed Notes for Our Dogs Magazine where she was bragging that these puppies were indeed descendants of her Akh-anubis line (and therefore sired by the dog she claimed she had taken back). So not only had she left a dog of hers with someone she knew kept their dogs in such appalling conditions, she also turned her back on the puppies, from her Akh-Anubis/Moreau lines – to face a life of squalor with Jacky Saunders. This dog has now been clarified as one of the dogs in rescue through Kennel Club DNA testing, the results of which are now lodged with the UK Kennel Club and the UK Sloughi Club. ASLA have also now been forwarded this information, however they have decided to ignore the information available, and other information offered and Maria Goodman remains on their Board of Directors.
The court case was delayed 3 times, but finally on 17 January 2006 Jacky Saunders was found guilty of 27 counts of cruelty and neglect against her Sloughis. However the RSPCA saw fit to return an unneutered male and a spayed female despite the 27 counts of cruelty. Again, it is unclear as to why the RSPCA would think that Jacky Saunders was a fit individual to keep any dogs. The RSPCA had also been sent evidence of the large volume of litters Miss Saunders had bred over the years producing many more than the 19 dogs that were found by the RSPCA. They still saw fit to give her back an unneutered male.
Jacky Saunders herself has never been forthcoming about what happened, and has always been an extremely private person. It is unlikely that she will now be remembered, as she once was, as the woman who brought Sloughis to the UK in the 1970’s and bred successfully for 30 years. She will now be remembered as the woman who committed an atrocious crime towards the breed, with help from Sue Harper, Rodney Reed and Maria Goodman.
The dogs that came into rescue in 2005 were in the main as traumatized and in bad condition as the dogs in 2002. The staff at Bath Cats and Dogs Home (where many were kept) said they had never seen dogs fall on food like these Sloughis. A couple of the older dogs had to be carried everywhere as they would just crumple in fear if anyone came to their kennel.
The final few dogs from 2005 were rehomed in the spring of 2006. A small group of people who had adopted these dogs formed an on-line community so we could discuss and watch all the dogs progress in their new lives. The transformation in these dogs has been incredible. Although some have taken longer to rehabilitate than others, they have all come on so much further than anyone could have dreamt. A testament to how wonderful, enchanting and forgiving this breed is, is that some of the rescue owners have gone back for a second, third and in one case fourth Sloughi. They speak about the dogs with such love and such passion, and their dedication to these dogs is evident in how happy the dogs are now. We had a Rescue Sloughi Reunion in April 2007, where 17 of the dogs attended with proud owners. A truly amazing day and a happy ending for what was such a sad and tragic story.
Written by Caroline Mathews – 2007
Photos used with kind permission from Westhatch Rescue Centre