AN animal lover was spotted swerving from lane to lane on a motorway with a can of Coke clasped between her legs, smoking a cigarette and with 27 dogs in her car, a court heard.

Barbara Byrne, 61, of Manor Close, Tongham, was seen by police officers driving erratically in the outside lane with a car full of dogs.

When she was finally stopped, officers found her with one dog on her lap and four others loose in the car.

She denied driving without due care and attention, failing to stop a motor vehicle when required by the police and driving otherwise than in accordance with a licence but was convicted after a three-hour trial at Huntingdon Magistrates’ Court.

Cambridgeshire police officers attempted to stop the red Renault Laguna estate by sounding the siren, flashing the patrol car lights and shouting at her.

Pc Sarah Gaylor told the court that Byrne refused to stop despite their repeated orders for her to do so.

She said: “I shouted for her to pull over and she shouted back saying, ‘No, I’m not stopping for you’ and then she wound her window up and drove off.”

Pc Gaylor told the court that Byrne was driving at 40mph on a road with a 70-mph speed limit, posing a risk to other drivers.

She said: “It was slow but it was still a danger.

Her windows were all steamed up and it was an extremely miserable day, rain was pouring down. It was horrible.”

However, Byrne wanted to take her dogs for a day out to Skegness on the Lincolnshire coast and continually refused to stop for police despite a 15-and-a-half-mile pursuit.

Pc Gaylor radioed for assistance and, as Byrne drew close to a motorway turn-off, another patrol car joined them on the A1.

Byrne was blocked off close to the slip road and an officer ran out and snatched the keys from her ignition.

On closer inspection, Pc Gaylor said she saw a car full of dogs. She said: “Mrs Byrne was in the driving seat with a can of coke between her thighs and a small brown dog in her lap.

“There were four or five other dogs either in the front passenger seat or the front passenger seat’s footwell. None of these dogs were restrained.”

She said the back seat had been pulled down to make room for a metal cage, which contained a further 22 small brown cocker spaniel-type dogs.

Pc John Clary, a traffic officer, who was at the scene on May 13 last year, asked Byrne who owned the car. She told him: “This is the dogs’ car. Mine is top-of-the-range with alloy wheels.”

Mauro Maselli, defending, said: “This is a lower case driving offence.

“Mrs Byrne would like the court to know that without a licence it would be difficult for her to walk. She is an elderly lady.”

He added that she had never been in trouble before.

The trial was stopped several times because of outbursts by Byrne.

At one point she was taken down to the cells and was asked to apologise to the magistrates.

She continually shouted in protest against the pro-ceedings, saying that the charges against her were a “pack of lies”.

She also told the magistrates that she could drive an articulated lorry and that they couldn’t take away her licence because she had to get home to “see her boys”.

Despite this, magistrates convicted Byrne on all charges and disqualified her from driving for 12 months and ordered to take a retest at the end of the disqualification period.

She was fined £50 and ordered to pay £75 in costs.

Magistrate Rosalie Trayner said: “Officers saw you meandering with steamed up windows and five unrestrained dogs in the vehicle and 22 others in the back. We feel the defendant was not in complete control.”