A WOMAN who trained as a veterinary nurse has been banned from keeping pets for a decade after officials discovered she had been living with scores of dead animals in a filthy Boscombe flat.

Charmaine Collins, 28, had left pets including guinea pigs, rabbits, hamsters, gerbils, ducks and chickens without water and food for at least a week, a court heard yesterday.

Police and RSPCA officials who visited her flat in Hamilton Road on a November evening last year discovered loosely-stacked crates full of animals in almost every room of her two-bed flat, as well as a shed outside. Many of the creatures were dying or already dead.

Matthew Knight, prosecuting for the RSPCA, said 196 animals in total were discovered. Some 61 died. The defendant, who had started a degree in veterinary care, had established an animal breeding business called Fairytales with a friend. However, the friend backed out around two weeks before the flat was raided.

"There was a lack of food and water. They were abandoned," Mr Knight said.

"It was an appalling environment."

Officials found 48 animals in a small shed in the property's communal garden. Many of the creatures inside - including 30 guinea pigs - were dead at the time, or died shortly afterwards.

Entry was then forced to the flat, which was in darkness and without electricity. As RSPCA inspector Patrick Bailey panned a torch around the dark rooms, the beam fell on a severely dehydrated rabbit, which was "convulsing".

The officials then realised every room bar the bathroom was stacked with cages.

An animal carcass infested with maggots was also discovered. Mr Knight said the decomposition indicated the creature had been dead for some time.

The RSPCA had first become involved with Collins in April 2016 over "similar issues", it was said. At that time, Collins sought help from officials and some months later had just two dogs and a lizard.

However, she then began buying animals from fairs and shows. Ten days after she was interviewed by police, she travelled to Holland to buy 70 rodents. All have now been seized by the RSPCA.

Collins, who is now of no fixed abode, admitted six charges relating to the care of the animals last month. She returned to Poole Magistrates' Court for sentence.

One of the charges relates to two rabbits, who were kept in a plastic storage tub so small the creatures were prevented from moving in any direction.

David Hurley, mitigating, said Collins "failed to cope with her escalating problems".

"She was overwhelmed due to her mental health issues and effectively she shut herself off from it and allowed it to happen," he said.

"She suffered an acute breakdown and clearly did not act responsibility towards those animals."

The defendant, who remained dry-eyed and composed in the dock, was sentenced to a 12-month community order and 30 rehabilitation activity requirement days. She was also ordered to pay £250 costs and an £80 surcharge and banned from keeping any animal for the next 10 years.