Willow was already starving when she gave birth to seven puppies early last year. With precious little food thrown her way, Willow simply couldn’t keep her babies alive – sadly, five died before RSPCA South Australia got the call to intervene.
Now, Willow’s former owner has been prosecuted by RSPCA and criminally convicted of animal ill-treatment. And this brave dog has found happiness with a loving family on a rolling Adelaide Hills property.
‘You could feel every bone of hers’
When Inspector Cheryl arrived at the Elizabeth property last January, she found 2-year-old Willow so emaciated the Rhodesian ridgeback cross cocker spaniel weighed just 13kg.
“You could feel every bone of hers: her ribs, hips and spine,” Inspector Cheryl recalls. With a body score of just one out of nine, it was clear Willow had given every skerrick of nutrition possible to her last two surviving pups.
“It’s normal to lose maybe one puppy at birth, but these puppies were just continually dying. One had died the day before, another the day before that. That’s really unusual and raised my concerns for the welfare of the puppies,” Inspector Cheryl says.
“Just imagine how stressful that must have been for a mum, watching her puppies die. I’ve no doubt the last two would have died, too, if we hadn’t taken them.”
Much-needed treatment for Willow and pups
Back at RSPCA Lonsdale, veterinarians treated Willow’s badly infected left eye, before beginning the slow process of bringing her back to good health. She required a specialised feeding regime for four months, while in foster care, to slowly build up her weight.
“Despite her condition, Willow was still friendly, letting us handle her pups and coming up to everyone. She is such a nice dog,” Inspector Cheryl recalls.
Her two surviving pups got plenty of love and care, too, growing into strong and happy dogs who were both adopted into loving families in May 2017.
Then it was Willow’s turn to find her new family.
A new home and freedom to play all day
In May 2017, Adelaide Hills couple Sharon and Kevin Murphy fell in love with Willow and brought her home to their 70-acre property. She now has the freedom to run and play all day with her family and her favourite doggy mate Rusty.
“They’re best mates, they spoon each other at night time and sleep together with the cat on the outside. They play really well together,” Sharon told Channel 10 News.
“We love her a lot. She’s slotted in really well.”
Prison sentence and animal ban for former owner
In March 2018, RSPCA South Australia’s prosecution case against Willow’s former owner was heard in Elizabeth Magistrates Court. The defendant, 31-year-old Rebecca Callaghan, was convicted on two counts of animal ill-treatment for failing to provide adequate food and water, and failing to seek veterinary treatment.
The magistrate handed down a seven-week suspended prison sentence and ordered Callaghan pay $1,050 in veterinary and legal costs. She was also banned from owning animals indefinitely.
It’s only thanks to a member of the public, who called RSPCA South Australia, that we were able to help Willow and her surviving puppies. Please, if you see animal cruelty or neglect, immediately call our 24-hour hotline on 1300 4 777 22.
RSPCA South Australia is the state’s only animal welfare charity empowered to prosecute animal cruelty under SA’s Animal Welfare Act. Learn more here.