Neglected cat’s face eroded away by cancer

Published on 2 May 2022

RSPCA says there is no excuse for failing to seek treatment

An animal cruelty case prosecuted by RSPCA Victoria and involving a cat with extensive facial cancer was finalised in Sunshine Magistrates’ Court recently. The accused was convicted, fined $4,000 and ordered to pay costs of $910.48.  After pleading guilty, Ashley Marmara was also disqualified from animal ownership for a period of ten years.

Ms Marmara’s co-accused, Sandra Vella, had her case finalised in court in October last year. Ms Vella received an 18-month community corrections order and was similarly banned from owning any animal for a period of ten years, except for the two cats currently in her care.

The case centred around a ten-year-old domestic shorthair cat who was impounded as a stray at the Lost Dogs Home in March 2020. When veterinarians assessed the animal, he was found to have severe lesions caused by squamous cell carcinoma, a form of skin cancer. The cat, named Waffles, had significant facial damage, with parts of the left side of his face having been eaten away by the cancer.

When a microchip was found and the accused and co-accused came to collect the cat, veterinarians advised them that he was in a critical condition and required urgent veterinary treatment. Approximately a week’s worth of antibiotics and pain relief were administered, and Waffles was subsequently taken home.

Ten days later, when there was no evidence that any treatment for the cat had been sought, the case was referred to RSPCA Victoria. Inspectors issued a Notice to Comply, with instructions that veterinary attention was required within 48 hours. Once again, no action was taken by either the accused or co-accused to seek assistance for Waffles.

After a series of enquiries and investigations by an RSPCA Victoria Inspector to locate Waffles, he was eventually found, picked up by council and transported to RSPCA’s Burwood East shelter. Upon examination by a veterinarian, it was evident that most of his nose, upper left eyelid and parts of his forehead had eroded away due to the severity of the condition and the amount of time it had been left untreated. A subsequent biopsy confirmed the advanced stage of the cancer, and given the incurable nature, as well as the significant level of pain and suffering Waffles would have been enduring, he was humanely euthanised.

RSPCA Victoria Senior Inspector Sarah Gilbert said that the case was particularly disturbing given the cancer was easily observable and the impact to the cat’s quality of life would have been evident.

“This isn’t an affliction that could have possibly gone unnoticed. Half of Waffles’ face was covered in ulcerated, bleeding lesions and all instructions to seek veterinary care were ignored.

“If your circumstances change and you can longer care for your animals, you owe it to them to do the right thing and seek help or support.

“There is no excuse for the level of suffering this animal was forced to endure.”

Anyone with concerns for the welfare of animals is encouraged to contact RSPCA Victoria’s Inspectorate via www.rspcavic.org/report or by calling 9224 2222.

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