A WOMAN whose trial cost the RSPCA at least £10,000 after her 18 neglected rabbits were taken into care has been fined £50 and has been allowed to keep her remaining pets.

Jacqueline Elizabeth Miles, 57, of Sunnybank, Marlow, admitted 23 charges of causing unnecessary suffering to the rare angora rabbits in March this year.

She was conditionally discharged for each of the 23 charges at Wycombe Magistrates' Court on Wednesday which means she will not face further prosecution as long as she keeps out of trouble for the next year.

She will also keep her other 30 rabbits, several dogs and a pony.

In November 2004, 20 rare angora rabbits were rescued from her back garden by the RSPCA when an animal inspector found them hungry, ungroomed, and living alone in their own faeces and urine.

Five of the animals were babies, and two of the rabbits subsequently died from neglect.

Since then, the 18 remaining rabbits which had names like Mr Pastry, Chocolate Sauce, Toby, and Tin Tin have been cared for at the RSPCA's expense.

The court heard how the total costs of looking after the pets and the legal expenses of the case, which has been ongoing since the pets were first seized, has amounted to some £10,000.

Robin Gates, prosecuting for the RSPCA, said: "The cost to the society in this matter has got astronomical and this is the 15th hearing and many of them have been as a result of her failing to answer her bail conditions to the extent that she was remanded in custody for a week."

He also described Miles, who lives off just £57 a week, as a "pet hoarder".

He said: "The concern really relates to the caged animals and the volume of them.

"I would ask you to consider to make a disqualification order or at least limit it to rabbits and caged animals."

But the magistrates did not disqualify Miles from keeping any more pets.

They instead confiscated the 18 rabbits from her and issued her with a £50 fine.

Nigel Weller, defending, said: "She's given up her working life and the chance of having a partner and children to look after her 91-year-old mother who needs 24-hour care.

"She did not intend to cause these animals any sort of harm and would like to apologise to the court for not keeping her animals 100 per cent."

Sophie Wilkinson, a spokesman for the RSPCA, said after the hearing: "All that we can say is that we stand by the court's decision and it has at least prevented the remaining animals from suffering."

Figures released by the RSPCA this week show a dramatic rise in the number of animal cruelty cases in the last year.

In the east region, which Buckinghamshire falls under, a 14 per cent increase has been seen in the number of reported cases of animal harm from 357 in 2004 to 407 in 2005.

Miles' solicitor is appealing the court's decision and for this reason the court has suspended the confiscation order and the fine payment.