A Whyalla couple convicted on a cruelty charge in the Whyalla Magistrates Court this week allowed the coat of their elderly miniature poodle cross to become so overgrown and matted that the animal could no longer see or walk properly.
In addition to his matted coat, the 13-year-old dog was suffering from dehydration, emaciation, tapeworms, fleas, arthritis and coughing as the result of an upper respiratory issue.
In the Whyalla Magistrates Court, the dog’s owners were convicted on a charge of ill-treatment of an animal for the chronic neglect of their dog. An RSPCA South Australia inspector attended at the Whyalla Stuart property on 26 May 2020 in response to a cruelty report.
On seeing the dog’s condition, the inspector immediately took the animal to a Whyalla veterinary clinic. The examining vet, Dr Mustafa Bozkurt, found the dog had a severely matted and dreadlocked coat full of grass seeds and crawling with fleas and a tapeworm in his anus. In his report, Dr Bozkurt stated that the potential health consequences of such severe matting were:
Tension, discomfort and restricted range of movement due to matted fur pulling on the dog’s skin
Higher likelihood of bacterial and fungal infections, especially if the animal gets wet
The likelihood for wounds and infection to fester and to progress before being seen or smelt
The skin and fur may harbour fleas and other parasites while making it difficult for the animal to scratch itself
Interference with urination and defecation
The dog was clipped the day after he was taken into RSPCA South Australia’s care. The weight of the clippings was 700 grams; once clipped, the dog weighed just over four kilograms.
On 1 June 2020, the dog was transported from the Whyalla veterinary clinic to RSPCA’s Lonsdale shelter for further veterinary care. Despite the efforts of both the veterinary and animal care teams, the dog failed to respond to his medical treatment and sadly collapsed and died two days later. A post mortem identified pneumonia as the likely cause of death, on top of the animal’s myriad of other health issues stemming from chronic neglect.
The court heard that the couple felt deep remorse for what had happened to their dog. They had been overwhelmed at the time of the offending due to several tragic events within their family, their own health issues and responsibilities for the care of an adult child with disabilities.
Magistrate Lynette Duncan noted that the defendants had taken some steps to address the grooming issue, but it was too late. Her Honour acknowledged that the emaciation occurred for a reasonable period of time and that the dog’s suffering in its last months would have been significant.
Both defendants were convicted and placed on a $500 good behaviour bond of 18 months. Legal and veterinary costs totalling $548.45 were awarded to RSPCA SA. The couple is prohibited from owning any animals, except two pets already in their care. A veterinary report testified that these animals, a dog and cat, were in good health and RSPCA inspectors will monitor their ongoing care.
RSPCA South Australia Chief Inspector Andrea Lewis described the case as extremely sad on all levels.
“This couple was clearly not coping with multiple challenges in their lives for a period of time, and the consequences for their dog have been tragic,” Inspector Lewis said.
“This was an elderly, long-coated dog and extremely vulnerable if his nutritional and grooming needs were not met.
“Our animals depend on us to provide them with more care, not less, as they age.
“We urge people to alert authorities immediately if they believe an animal is being neglected because for it to have gotten to this point for this dog before any alarm was raised is simply horrific.”
RSPCA South Australia is the state’s only animal welfare charity with inspectors empowered to prosecute animal cruelty under SA’s Animal Welfare Act.
Members of the public who witness animal cruelty or neglect are urged to immediately call RSPCA’s 24-hour cruelty report hotline on 1300 477 722.