A woman who let her dog become emaciated over several weeks until every bone on her skeleton was prominent, has been given a suspended prison sentence and banned from keeping animals for six years.
Tobias Rae, of Wallasey, had admitted causing unnecessary suffering to Dottie, who was so thin that a vet was able to place her fingers around the dog’s abdomen.
The three-year-old dog, who had “all but given up”, has since gone on to make a full recovery in the care of the RSPCA’s Wirral & Chester branch at their centre in Cross Lane, Wallasey.
Rae was given a 12-week prison sentence, suspended for two years by Liverpool Magistrates’ Court on Monday (23 May) following a prosecution brought by the animal welfare charity.
The court heard how RSPCA inspector Anthony Joynes had visited Rae’s flat on 26 January following concerns from members of the public about the welfare of animals at the address, in particular a brown or brindle dog called Dottie that had recently escaped and was said to be extremely underweight.
In his evidence, Inspector Joynes said, “I could immediately smell a strong odour of urine and faeces coming from the address. A young female, dark brindle Cane Corso type dog that I would describe as being emaciated was brought into the communal hallway.
“I could see all of the bones of her spine, ribs and pelvic bones. I could also see boney processes of her skull where muscle had atrophied, which is only usually seen in extreme cases often involving seriously unwell or starving dogs. She wandered over with her head held low and with a lethargic and clumsy gait.”
Rae told the inspector that Dottie had struggled to put on weight since she had had a litter of puppies and that she had owned the dog for approximately 18 months. She said she had a PDSA appointment the following day but could not show any evidence of this and enquiries with the charity showed this not to be true.
Dottie was seized by a police officer who had accompanied Inspector Joynes. Rae agreed to sign over a ferret but refused to relinquish another dog at the property, an older Shepherd type called Diesel whose condition was not as bad. An improvement notice was served and a wet and dry food parcel was provided to ensure there was sufficient food in the short term for him.
Magistrates heard how Dottie was immediately taken to a vet to be examined. Her claws were caked in faeces and she had dirty ear canals. There were also a large number of circular scars – some of which were still scabbed – on her head, ears, neck and front legs which were thought to have been caused by her fighting over food with Diesel.
The court was told that a dog of her type should have weighed in the region of 30kg but Dottie was only 23.6kg. Her bones had become prominent and blood tests showed she was also anaemic.
In her evidence, the vet who examined Dottie and gave her a body condition score of just one out of nine, said, “I was able to get my fingers around her abdominal circumference; not something that would be typical in a dog of this size of a healthy weight. She was emaciated to the point that it was cachexic, with significant muscle loss which would have left her feeling weak.
“A dog does not become emaciated overnight, it takes several weeks to become this underweight from a previously healthy body condition and during this entire time she would have been suffering as muscle was metabolised for energy. It should have been obvious to the owner that this dog was underweight and not gaining weight and veterinary attention was needed to investigate this.”
The court heard how a refeeding programme was introduced once Dottie was at the RSPCA centre, and just eight weeks later she weighed 33kg.
In addition to the six-year ban on keeping animals, Rae was also ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £114 and also ordered to undergo 30 days of rehabilitation activity requirement.
The court heard how Rae was struggling financially but knew that assistance, including food bank support, could be provided.
Magistrates were told she was making arrangements for her other dog to be rehomed to a family member. The RSPCA will be checking to ensure this has been done, otherwise Rae will be in breach of her disqualification order.
Speaking after the case, Inspector Joynes said, “Dottie was without doubt one of the most underweight live dogs I’ve rescued in 14 years as an RSPCA inspector. Her body had begun to shut down, so it took a while for weight to start going back on, which was a worrying time for the staff caring for her. She is such a gentle soul and was let down terribly by her owner. She has since gained well over half of her initial body weight and is now doing really well and beginning to enjoy life again.”
Kay Hawthorn, the manager of the animal centre at Wallasey where Dotty is being cared for, said, “She really struggled when she first came to us and had all but given up. We fed her little and often but due to her being so weak and disinterested, it was a real struggle to get things moving again and give her something to live for.
“Her weight increased very slowly at first, but once she got started she became stronger and happier as the days went by. Now she is a different dog with a real zest for life and is a firm favourite with all the staff, who she insists stop and fuss over her, no matter how busy they might be!”
Dottie will be available for rehoming in the near future.