A couple whose kittens were left starving and with ruptured eyes have been banned for owning animals for 10 years.

Barry Hardiman, 44, and Michelle Morgan, 43, of Old Hospital Close, Balham, were also charged with causing unnecessary suffering to a Jack Russell.

Wimbledon Magistrates Court heard yesterday an RSPCA inspector visited the property on April 23 after being contacted by police.

The house was in a state of disrepair, with rubbish and mess littered over the floor.

Morgan informed the inspector the dog, named Mace, belonged to her partner and was upstairs.

Mace was found to have sore red skin, with a lot of fur missing and in distress caused by the skin irritation.

The inspector seized the dog, with a vet later noting visible dog and cat fleas in its fur and a striking loss of hair.

A week later the officer returned to the house to check on the welfare of the cats and kittens.

In the upstairs bedroom in a drawer there were four kittens, with each animal suffering from a yellow discharge around their eyes of varying severity.

Morgan told the inspector there was another litter of kittens inside another chest of drawers among some black bin bags.

The two kittens inside were dirty, smelt of urine and emaciated, with crusty yellow discharge coming from both eyes.

All of the felines were seized, with a vet being forced to put down five of the kittens as some were suffering from ruptured eyeballs.

The court heard Hardiman admitted he was the owner of Mace and said he tried to treat the rash at home.

He said he had not seen the animals since they were moved upstairs and he would have taken them to the vet if he knew of their problems.

Defending, Cassandra Blige, said he was a recovering alcoholic and was attending treatment programme in Trinity Road, Tooting.

The couple, who have seven children aged one to 19-years-old, were also struggling to cope with recent bereavements.

Miss Blige said: "Mr Hardiman is a recovering alcoholic it's fair to say he was a chronic alcoholic. But he accepts full responsibility that these animals were neglected.

"It was a chaotic household and the parents weren't taking full responsibility of their household. They couldn't cope having animals as well as seven children."

Magistrates handed the pair a 12 month community order, with 12 months supervision and 200 hours unpaid work.

They have been disqualified from owning or working with animals for 10 years and each were fined £360.

The animals have since been re-homed.