Wildlife expert who appeared on Alan Titchmarsh's chatshow kept 70 exotic animals in 'unspeakable' conditions

  • Stephen Rowlands, 32, had meerkats, snakes, a porcupine, monkeys, and an armadillo in 4 pens at the headquarters for wildlife company Tropical Inc
  • He was handed a 12-month sentence suspended for two years
  • Judge did not ban TV star from keeping or working with animals

By Mia De Graaf

|


A television wildlife expert who appeared on Alan Titchmarsh’s chat show has walked free from court despite being convicted of keeping more than 70 exotic animals in 'unspeakable' conditions.

Stephen Rowlands, 32, made regular television appearances and taught schoolchildren across the UK about the rare creatures with his company Tropical Inc.

The company, which teaches school children about tropical animals, states on its website that its staff can educate people about how to care for exotic pets.

When police raided the company’s headquarters in Dunhampton, Worcester, on January 3 they found 74 tropical creatures starved and crammed in four squalid holding pens. 

Scroll down for video

Convicted: Stephen Rowlands, shown here on The Alan Titchmarsh Show on February 16, 2012

Convicted: Wildlife expert Stephen Rowlands, shown here on The Alan Titchmarsh Show on February 16, 2012, was found guilty of 34 counts of animal cruelty

Squalid: Animals such as racoons and porcupines were kept in cages piled on top of each other in a small room

Squalid: Animals such as racoons and porcupines were kept in cages piled on top of each other in a small room

Unspeakable: The animals lived without electricity, light and food at Tropical Inc in Dunhampton, Worcester

Unspeakable: The animals lived without electricity, light and food at Tropical Inc in Dunhampton, Worcester

A court heard investigators found meerkats, parrots, monkeys, turtles, owls, snakes and an armadillo kept without electricity, light and food.

The creatures were confiscated by RSPCA officers under the Animal Welfare Act after they were found covered in faeces.

 

It has since cost the charity more than £100,000 to care for the range of bizarre breeds - which also included coatis (Brazilian aardvarks), genets (African mongooses), snapping turtles, tortoises, snakes, a porcupine, Harris hawks, and cotton-top tamarin monkeys.

Rowlands was convicted of animal cruelty at Worcester Magistrates Court on Thursday after pleading guilty to 34 counts of not providing a suitable habitat.

But a judge refused to jail Rowlands - who still teaches and presents on Tropical Inc shows - or ban him from working with, or keeping, animals. 

'Unspeakable': Police found monkeys, an armadillo, hawks and other creatures cramped into four pens

'Unspeakable': Police found monkeys, an armadillo, hawks and other creatures cramped into four pens

Teacher: Rowlands, 32, teaches schoolchildren across the UK about the wild animals he keeps at the HQ

Teacher: Rowlands, 32, teaches schoolchildren across the UK about the wild animals he keeps at the HQ

Not able to care for them: The judge ordered Rowlands to forfeit seven animals as he cannot care for them

Not able to care for them: The judge ordered Rowlands to forfeit seven animals as he cannot care for them

Neglected: This armadillo is curled up in a sty filled with debris such as food packets in the company's HQ

Neglected: This armadillo is curled up in a sty filled with debris such as food packets in the company's HQ

Instead the TV personality was handed a 12-week jail term - suspended for two years - and £100,000 legal costs.

Deputy district judge Nalla Lawrence said conditions at Tropical Inc had been 'unspeakable' and admitted the animals had 'suffered a great deal'.

However, he ruled a ban would be 'going too far' because Rowlands had made 'tremendous progress' in refurbishing the facilities.

The judge ordered Rowlands to forfeit seven animals and imposed a deprivation order which will see a further 36 removed from his possession.

Passing sentence he said: 'He has learnt his lesson.

'This prosecution has prompted him to wake up.

Adjustments: Tropical Inc has said they will work with the RSPCA to ensure their enclosures are safe

Adjustments: Tropical Inc has said they will work with the RSPCA to ensure their enclosures are safe

Keeping animals: The judge did not ban Rowlands from keeping animals or working with them in the future

Keeping animals: The judge did not ban Rowlands from keeping animals or working with them in the future

'I find if I return these animals to him he may not be able to care for them to the standard that he would want to, so I am not going to return them.”

Rowlands was ordered to do 200 hours of unpaid work as well as paying legal costs of £6,100, further costs of £100 and an £80 victim surcharge.

Prosecutor Nick Sutton - on behalf of the RSPCA - told the court Tropical Inc’s website offers parties and educational talks on exotic animals.

Mr Sutton 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.'

Alan Titchmarsh interviewed Rowlands about tropical animals including turtles on his show last year

Alan Titchmarsh interviewed Rowlands about the care of tropical animals such as turtles on his show last year

Dominic Benthall, defending, said Rowlands had taken steps since the raid to improve the animals’ accommodation.

Mr Benthall said the company now employed a veterinary nurse, part-time carer and cleaner and students to help care for the animals.

He also denied Rowlands, from Oldbury, West Midlands, ran the business purely for financial gain.

He said: 'If it was just a business he would have fewer animals.'

Rowlands, who has made regular appearances on ITV1’s Alan Titchmarsh Show can still be seen on Tropical Inc’s Facebook page appearing at company events.

One picture, uploaded the same day as the court hearing, shows a young girl holding a parrot in front of Rowlands wearing a t-shirt with the company logo.

In a statement posted two days after the dawn raid, the company said it was working to improve conditions in its holding pens.

They said: 'As some of you may already be aware, the RSPCA visited our developing site on 3rd January 2013 at 6.30am, which unfortunately resulted in some of our rescued animals being removed from the site.

'As we had recently received planning permission to build our new education centre, some of the existing buildings had to be demolished in the process of constructing the new premises. Some of our animals had been moved from their enclosures to temporary indoor enclosures and the RSPCA have deemed some of these temporary enclosures to be unfit.

Sentence: Rowlands was handed a 12-month jail term suspended for two years

Sentence: Rowlands, from the West Midlands, was handed a 12-month jail term suspended for two years

'We would like to make everyone aware that these enclosures were temporary and it was never our intention to keep animals in them for any prolonged amount of time.

'However due to the extreme wet weather we have been experiencing which has caused significant problems for us and some animals had been in these enclosures for longer than we had anticipated.

'We wholeheartedly agree that animal welfare is a priority and will be working with the RSPCA to make sure our temporary enclosures are more suitable for our animals and will keep you all updated when we can.

'We would like to thank everyone for their support.'

The comments below have been moderated in advance.

He should have been jailed, if only to set an example to others who might keep exotic animals in such dreadful conditions. What was the judge thinking by giving this horrible man such a light sentence?

12
273
Click to rate

Anyone who knows Steve or met him through his shows will know that he is absolutely passionate about his animals, and very knowledgable about every single one. Remember that almost animal he has or had was given to him by people who didn't want them or couldn't care for them anymore, his one mistake was in trying to help every animal he was offered at a time when he couldn't house them appropriately because he had building work going on, which had been delayed due to bad weather. He must be commended in admitting his mistakes and agreeing and working with the RSPCA, it is such a shame that they saw fit to prosecute him when he has improved (as planned) the animals living areas. Don't forget there were 74 other animals he had that were housed and kept correctly, that he was allowed to keep.

207
46
Click to rate

I like how you have judged a one sided view especially as the judge had seen both sides of the story deemed Mr Rowland's fit to keep working and teaching about these amazing wonderful animals. hope the RSPCA find these animals a new home, I doubt this very much, as we are all aware that the RSPCA KILL over half their healthy animals instead of rehoming or boarding due to costs!! especially as these animals are rare and exotic not many people would house them hence why Mr Rowland's had so many in the first place.

79
50
Click to rate

This is intolerable! Cruelty against animals must be treated with the same punishment as cruelty towards children. Animals are even more defenseless than children. I am horrified that this sicko got no sentencing and can even CONTINUE mistreating poor animals who have no way of speaking up, taking legal action, call for help, file a police complaint. UTTER CRUELTY!

13
150
Click to rate

ALL animals should have been took of him and a ban of working and owning any. Disgraceful! This from someone with so much knowledge of them that educates others? Sick. NO EXCUSE.

12
137
Click to rate

He walked free from court and was was allowed to continue keeping animals - enough said. THAT is why animal cruelty is rife in the UK.

12
174
Click to rate

Once again the viewers are lulled into a false security with these 'Experts' being paraded on TV. Thats the sort of TV programmes you get when a 'Gardener' is moved to a 'Presenter' position. Anything to try to make the show popular, no research involved. Money involved ?

11
85
Click to rate

Don't ever allow him on any programs again.

8
140
Click to rate

The judge says that the conditions were "unspeakable" and that the animals "suffered a great deal" and yet his decision was that a ban would be "going too far". Who is this judge who talks in riddles and is basically condoning the activities of this obnoxious person with his soft sentencing. I'd hope he can live with his conscience if anything else happens to any creatures this "expert" gets his hands on in the future. The fact that they have only now thought fit to employ a veterinary nurse, carers and cleaners speaks volumns The RSPCA have to be applauded for taking this to court and must be devastated with the result.

7
136
Click to rate

He walks free from court, yet another Judge who is not interested in sending a message to others.

5
138
Click to rate

The views expressed in the contents above are those of our users and do not necessarily reflect the views of MailOnline.

We are no longer accepting comments on this article.

Who is this week's top commenter? Find out now