Suspended sentence for dog owner who failed to get urgently needed vet treatment

January 09, 2020

The owner of a Mastiff cross dog who failed to get veterinary treatment for a large, malignant and ulcerated tumour on one of the dog’s hind legs has received a suspended prison sentence in the Elizabeth Magistrates Court. 

An RSPCA South Australia Inspector seized the dog on 3 October 2018 after his owner failed to comply with a legally enforceable Animal Welfare Notice, requiring the dog receive veterinary care.

The defendant pleaded guilty to one count of Ill Treatment of an Animal on the basis that she failed to take reasonable steps to treat the tumour afflicting her 7 year old dog. The court heard the defendant could not afford veterinary treatment and was instead resorting to home treatment.

RSPCA South Australia’s legal counsel Chloe Swinden said the offending was a serious example of the offence given the obvious need for treatment and the protracted nature of the failure to follow veterinary advice to treat the mass or surrender the animal to a welfare organisation to prevent ongoing suffering.

In sentencing, Magistrate Brian Nitschke said it was obvious that the dog needed medical care, and that offences of this kind were serious because animals are at the mercy of their owners when they require help.

Magistrate Nitschke concluded that imprisonment was the only suitable penalty but that there were good reasons to suspend the sentence, including the defendant’s otherwise good character. He sentenced the defendant to 7 days imprisonment, suspended upon entry into a bond in the sum of $500 with a condition to be of good behaviour for a period of 2 years.

In addition, the defendant was prohibited from having or acquiring any animals until further order, aside from a female Mastiff dog who remains in her care on the conditions that the defendant be supervised by the RSPCA for 2 years, the dog be vaccinated, de-sexed and microchipped within 6 months and the defendant provides evidence of vaccination, de-sexing and microchipping together with clinical notes annually over the reporting period.

The defendant was ordered to pay $3832 in veterinary costs.

RSPCA South Australia’s Chief Inspector Andrea Lewis said it was a sad case involving an owner who clearly loved her dog, but had not appreciated the level of suffering the animal was enduring as a consequence of not receiving veterinary care.

“This dog was suffering from an extremely serious condition, with a malignant tumour that was left to grow huge and spread to such an extent that he was unable to be saved,” Ms Lewis said.

“It is essential to seek and follow veterinary advice in determining the most humane option when our animals are unwell.

“Ignoring an animal in this kind of desperate situation is never okay – help must be sought as soon as possible, to relieve suffering and to give the animal the best chance of recovery.”

RSPCA is the only South Australian charity with legal power to investigate animal cruelty – but inspectors rely on the public to be their eyes and ears. That’s why RSPCA has again launched its Combat Cruelty campaign, which asks South Australians to take the pledge to combat cruelty.


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