Owners prosecuted for allowing morbidly obese dog to suffer

Published on 3 October 2022

On 7th September in Ringwood Magistrates’ Court, co-owners of a morbidly obese dog with a mass on her leg were found guilty with conviction, fined $1,800 and banned from being persons in charge of an animal for eight years, for failure to provide appropriate care.

Both the accused, Belinda Jones and Stacey Thompson, were prosecuted by RSPCA Victoria, facing three charges including failure to provide veterinary treatment, failure to provide proper food and thirdly, causing pain or suffering to an animal. Both the accused, who had failed to appear in court previously, again did not appear and the case was heard ex-parte.

In response to a cruelty report RSPCA Victoria Inspectors attended a private property and found an obese American Bulldog named Cheryl, with a golf ball sized growth on her left front leg.  Due to the significant amount of excess weight Cheryl was carrying, her ribs and spine weren’t visible and could not be felt, and she was observed to have trouble walking any distance. RSPCA Victoria Inspectors issued a verbal direction to the two accused to place Cheryl on a diet to significantly reduce her body weight, and to have the lump on her leg examined by a veterinarian.

RSPCA Victoria Inspectorate Team Leader Michelle Green said that upon a follow up visit, Cheryl’s condition had not changed, and she was still excessively overweight.

“Cheryl’s condition had not improved and in addition to the many health concerns that come with obesity, the excess weight impeded her ability to move freely and would have negatively impacted her quality of life on many levels.

“Cheryl’s owners admitted they had not followed the previously issued direction to seek veterinary care and it was apparent that Cheryl was suffering.

“Overweight animals suffer from a variety of health concerns as do underweight animals, and it’s imperative that owners are aware of appropriate diets that are nutritionally balanced and matched to a dog’s age and level of activity.  We encourage anyone with questions about relevant feeding plans to seek assistance from a veterinarian.”

RSPCA Victoria Inspectors issued the co-accused with a Notice to Comply instructing them to take Cheryl to a veterinarian. When the accused did not adhere to the directive and attend follow up veterinary appointments to provide adequate veterinary care to Cheryl, a warrant was executed.  Cheryl was again found in the same obese condition and the lump on her paw had ulcerated, illustrating the continued failure to provide adequate care was contributing to her deterioration and she was subsequently seized by RSPCA Victoria’s Inspectorate.

Upon veterinary examination at RSPCA Victoria, Cheryl was found to be morbidly obese, weighing 53.5kgs and 50% overweight for a dog of her breed. Cheryl’s weight impacted her ability to move properly and was unable to stand easily from a seated position.  To ensure appropriate care, including correct diet and proper exercise, Cheryl went into loving foster care where she started to lose weight, allowing her to be more physically active and live a healthy, happy life.

Potential health risks associated with obesity in dogs include many types of cancer, diabetes mellitus, heart disease, hypertension, osteoarthritis and a faster degeneration of affected joints, urinary bladder stones and anaesthetic complications and increased susceptibility to heat stress.

Anyone who has concerns for the welfare of an animal is encouraged to contact RSPCA Victoria on 9224 2222 or at rspcavic.org to make a cruelty report.

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