Owner of starving dog narrowly avoids prison

Published on 5 August 2022

A woman has narrowly avoided prison after a particularly shocking case of animal neglect was finalised in an online sitting in Sunshine Magistrates’ Court this morning.

The accused was convicted and sentenced to a 12-month community corrections order with 200 hours of community work. She was also banned from owning any dog for a period of ten years, with a monitoring order granted for the same period, and ordered to pay costs of $1,920.

The accused was the person in charge of ‘Rocky’, a Great Dane cross type dog. After receiving a report about a dog in poor condition, RSPCA Inspectors attended a property in Melton South and found Rocky lying on the concrete, unable to move.  He was extremely emaciated, with individual ribs, spine and pelvis evident from a distance.  There was a lack of muscle mass and little or no body fat.  Rocky was recumbent, cold to the touch and barely responsive.  Due to immediate welfare concerns, he was seized and transported to RSPCA’s Burwood Clinic.

A RSPCA veterinarian examined Rocky on his arrival, finding him to be severely emaciated, extremely dehydrated and suffering a heavy flea burden. He was unable to stand, had muscle wastage and weighed only 22.7kg, whereas a healthy weight for his age and breed would have been 30-35kg. Rocky was also severely hypothermic, to the point where his core body temperature would not read on a thermometer. Rocky was immediately placed on intravenous fluids to provide him with life supportive treatment to increase his body temperature and correct his dehydration.

Under veterinary care, Rocky’s body temperature improved the following day, and he was able to eat small meals. He was provided with ongoing supportive care, with anti-nausea medication, pain relief, gut protectants, antibiotics and regular body movement to prevent pressure sores developing.

Unfortunately, despite intensive veterinary care and treatment, Rocky succumbed to the severity of his condition and passed away in the clinic three days later.

A veterinary assessment concluded that Rocky would have been losing significant body condition for at least two weeks, and that a lay person would have been able to recognise he needed veterinary treatment. Blood tests revealed he was anemic and showed clinical signs of prolonged starvation.  The vet also stated that without the intervention of Inspectors, Rocky would have likely died the evening he was brought into RSPCA Victoria’s care.

RSPCA Team Leader Karen Collier said that the case had been particularly heartbreaking, and the abject neglect to which Rocky was subjected was utterly unacceptable.

“No animal should be left to suffer in the manner Rocky would have experienced. I will never understand how anyone can let an animal deteriorate to this point and stand idly by.  As an Inspector, this case will stay with me for a long time to come,” Inspector Collier said.

“While this isn’t the outcome we had hoped for, I do take solace in the fact that Rocky spent his last days receiving the love and care he so deserved.”

Under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986 (POCTAA), any person in charge of an animal must provide food, water and shelter, as well as appropriate husbandry and veterinary attention as needed.

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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