Zara’s incredible survival story: ear tumours, emaciation and a surprise litter of puppies!

May 16, 2019

Zara is no ordinary dog. At just 4 years old, Zara had already given birth twice and been a selfless mother to 24 puppies. And all while in constant chronic pain from enormous and infected ear tumours.

Unable to hear a sound, the gentle natured Staffordshire terrier could not even begin to understand why she was being treated with such neglect. The Munno Parra property she was kept in was covered with rubbish and faeces, and offered her no shelter of any kind.

Zara had no respite.

Imagine not being able to enjoy the simple pleasures of life, like hearing kind words or the cries of your pups. What if you couldn’t hear your surroundings? Always on constant high alert, always
living in fear.

This was poor Zara’s existence.

Our first attempt to help poor Zara

It was in June 2018 that an organisation, which specialises in temporary foster of animals for people without stable living conditions, first came across sweet-natured Zara.

At the time Zara was only 3 and a half, and was underweight with her spine and ribs clearly visible. However, more concerning were the visible tumours growing in her ears.

Given Zara’s condition, RSPCA South Australia became involved, to ensure that her treatment did not breach the Animal Welfare Act.

Seeing the dire state that Zara was in, the organisation in possession of Zara kindly offered the owner a great solution for this soon-to-be mum dog and the 10 babies growing inside her.

If the owner was willing to surrender the puppies, the organisation would vaccinate, desex and microchip them, and rehome them into happy homes. Best of all, they would provide free ear surgery for Zara before returning her. Healthy and pain-free.

Unfortunately the owner declined … and Zara’s puppies ended up for sale online.

Prior to the return of Zara from the other organisation, RSPCA Inspector Ryan issued the owner a notice which legally ordered Zara to be taken to the vet within 48 hours.

RSPCA followed up with the vet and was pleased to learn that Zara had been seen, and the recommendations on how to proceed with her tumours were being evaluated.

Education is very important to RSPCA and, where possible, we seek to support and educate a person on how to best care for their animal companion. We were hopeful that Zara was finally going to receive the care that she should have received all along, while her owner learned a valuable lesson about dog care.

Zara resurfaces – and her condition prompts immediate seizure

Four months later, RSPCA received a call to our 24-hour cruelty report hotline from a member of the public, reporting an animal with large ear tumours, which appeared to be swollen completely shut.

Zara just before she was seized

RSPCA Inspector Shelley responded and went to the property … and there was Zara. In a worse state than ever. The owner had failed to undertake the required treatment.

Zara’s owners would have made thousands from her gorgeous puppies. Do you think they even spent a dollar on Zara? Do you think they cared how much she desperately needed vet care? No.

At night, Zara was powerless to her throbbing ears and would groan, overcome with pain. By day, Zara would scratch her ears until they bled.

Zara who has a beautiful nature, wagged her tail at Shelley, although was constantly shaking her head in obvious pain and discomfort.

Shelly knocked on the door. No answer.

Given the lack of treatment and failure to comply with the previously issued welfare notice, Shelly prepared to seize Zara.

“As an Inspector, it’s important for us to remove animals like Zara when education hasn’t worked,” Inspector Shelly says.

Shelly wrapped her arms around Zara, with comforting words that she sadly wouldn’t have been able to hear, and loaded her into the Inspectorate van.

Having ignored Shelly’s first attempt at knocking, the owner now emerged from the property, yelling and enraged that Zara had been removed.

During the confrontation, it was evident to Inspector Shelly that the owner didn’t have any intention of fixing Zara’s ears, despite acknowledging that she knew Zara was in pain.

There had been no peace for Zara. But this was about to change.

Relief and the very best of care for Zara

Our vet team were understandably shocked when Zara arrived at RSPCA Lonsdale.

“While ear issues are common in dogs, it’s rare to see one progress to the stage where it has caused obstruction to ear canals. She had them for a while and would have been in pain for some years,” RSPCA Chief Vet Dr Brad Ward explains.

The masses in Zara’s ears were larger than the team had ever been seen. Yellow discharge was visible from both ears and a foul odour from infection was turning stomachs.

The calcification of the outer ear canals were also causing great pain, not to mention the fact that the masses were at risk of rupture.

We as humans know how painful it is to have an ear infection … let alone in both ears and with tumours stretching our ear canals. Hard to imagine, isn’t it!?

After extensive examinations from multiple RSPCA vets, and a variety of tests, it was inevitable that Zara was going to need surgery to completely remove both her ears.

A heartbreaking outcome, considering an ear infection could have been fixed so easily early on.

Zara underwent surgery on one ear first, so as not to completely overwhelm her.

Then came the biggest surprise of all…

Just when we thought the journey to recovery was right around the corner for young Zara … the ultimate spanner was thrown in the works.

Zara was pregnant. Again.

We could barely believe this thin and downtrodden dog had a belly full of growing pups – she’d clearly fallen pregnant just before Inspector Shelly seized her from a Munno Para property last November.

“Responsible dog breeders would have a couple of seasons in between litters, and a female dog would have two to three litters in a lifetime. Having consecutive litters was really hard on Zara and would have contributed to her poor body condition,” says our Chief Vet Dr Brad Ward.

Our team did everything we could to prepare frail-bodied Zara for the impending delivery of her pups.

That moment came in December last year, when Zara safely gave birth to a litter of puppies. We were so relieved – and, as you can imagine, her babies promptly melted hearts at our shelter.

Justice for Zara in court

In January this year, RSPCA Legal Counsel Damon Ind walked into the Elizabeth Magistrates court to prosecute Zara’s neglect and mistreatment.

“The defendant (Zara’s previous owner) didn’t show up, which clearly reflects a lack of care for the situation,” Damon says.

The result was a criminal conviction for animal cruelty and an $800 fine.

Zara’s former owner was also banned from owning all animals until further notice – a comfort for every RSPCA staff member and volunteer who had been involved in her case.

In March this year, Zara underwent her second surgery.

Our vets operated to remove her second ear tumour, and subsequently, her entire left ear.

Zara is now deaf – but she is finally free from pain.

Without public support, we couldn’t have performed this surgery on Zara – not just once, but twice – and freed her from suffering.

Did you know RSPCA South Australia is the only charity in SA with the legislative power to seize animals in cases of neglect and cruelty, as well as prosecute offenders? We’re so glad we could be there for Zara when she needed us most, but it’s only thanks to the generosity of our supporters. If you’d like to continue helping animals just like Zara, head over here to donate to our ongoing rescue and rehabilitation work .

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5 thoughts on “Zara’s incredible survival story: ear tumours, emaciation and a surprise litter of puppies!”

  1. Tanya Caro

    Im very moved by Zara story. I will always condemn animal cruelty. I dont have pets at the moment and Im intrested in adopting Zara. I can provide a loving home and provide all the care she needs with her special need. She would be inside the house. Please let me know when she is ready for adoption. Thank you so much

  2. Leanne paterson

    Thank u so much for saving zara

  3. Mary Jones

    This poor little baby what she went through
    I dint understand why it has to come to this, when the inspector first saw her condition wasn’t that enough to take her then. But it was another 4 months in agony before a stranger reported it again, why didn’t the inspector check a week after the first visit to ensure the procedure had been performed, too many times it’s always when the animals have suffered greatly and almost dead before rspca will act, I do not understand this??

    1. Hi Mary,
      We very much understand your concerns and want to assure you that our inspectors kept a watchful eye on Zara, but her case was complex and many details could not be shared in her full story. When our inspectors first made contact with Zara and her owner in late June 2018, Zara was already under the care of an external vet, which had been arranged by another animal agency that was assisting the owner. Ordinarily this case may have been finalised as Zara was receiving care, but our inspectors were still concerned with the severity of her condition and issued a legal direction for the owner to seek further vet assessment.

      Inspectors were advised by the vet clinic that due to the young litter of puppies that Zara was nursing, she was unable to receive any veterinary intervention as there was a risk to the pups. No treatment could be sought for Zara until after her pups were weened and Zara had regained some condition. Zara was returned to the owner at this time for the benefit of the dependent puppies and inspectors would follow up in 2-3 months time, as recommended by the vet, when Zara was in a position to receive treatment and surgery. The case was finalised as the other animal agency that was assisting had made arrangements with the owner to carry out all of Zara’s medical treatment in exchange for the puppies being surrendered and to be responsibly adopted out. Unfortunately, these arrangements were never carried out, as the owner decided to sell Zara’s puppies for financial gain. Through an unfortunate breakdown in communication, RSPCA was not advised by the animal agency that Zara did not receive the vet care that she so desperately needed.

      Thankfully, inspectors received another cruelty report only a few weeks after follow up was required, alerting them to Zara’s condition which alarmingly remained the same. Zara was subsequently seized immediately and was then found to be pregnant again so her treatment yet again had to be delayed until her puppies were born and weened. Zara was then finally able to start her road to recovery.
      Thank you.

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