A 56-year-old Illawong man was convicted and sentenced at Sutherland Local Court on Thursday 5 March 2020, following pleas of guilty to five counts of failing to provide veterinary treatment to his two dogs, ‘Buddy’ and ‘Rusty’, as well as one offence of committing an act of aggravated cruelty to Buddy the Old English Sheepdog.
He was sentenced to a 2-year Conditional Release Order, subject to conditions that he is of good behaviour and appears before the Court if called upon to do so. The Court further ordered the man to report to Sutherland Police Station within 24 hours for the purposes of fingerprinting.
The man was fined $5,250.00 with moiety awarded to RSPCA NSW and ordered to pay RSPCA NSW an additional $1,590.71 in veterinary and shelter costs.
He also received a prohibition order banning him from purchasing, acquiring, or taking possession or custody of any animal for ten years, with no exceptions, confirming that a third dog which remained in his care, a Labrador puppy, will need to be surrendered or otherwise rehomed within 28 days.
In an agreed fact document tendered on sentence, the Court heard that on Wednesday 13 November 2019, a RSPCA NSW Inspector attended the Illawong property in response to a cruelty complaint. Three dogs were observed on the property: an Old English Sheepdog (Buddy) and a Poodle cross Cocker Spaniel (Rusty) were in a side yard next to the house, while the third was a chocolate Labrador seen through a sliding door inside the house.
The Inspector had immediate concerns for the Old English Sheepdog as it appeared to be in very poor body condition and was unreactive to anything around it, including the large number of flies landing on the dog. There was a strong stench of urine and faeces coming from the dog and it had large clumps of matted fur all over its body.
The Poodle cross Cocker Spaniel was observed in a light body condition and had a matted coat that appeared dirty and red. Both dogs had fur that had grown over their eyes and needed to be parted by hand for the Inspector to see them.
Both dogs were seized from the side yard, which was mostly dirt and had a build-up of faeces, as they needed urgent veterinary treatment. The Inspector ran a hand over the Old English Sheepdog’s body and felt the grooves of the spine bone as well as protruding rib bones, indicating the extreme emaciation of Buddy.
Buddy could not stand up unassisted and had to be carried into the RSPCA vehicle. Both dogs were transported to the RSPCA Sydney shelter in Yagoona.
The examining veterinarian determined Buddy was severely obtunded (only eyes responsive) and very unweight with a body score of 5, where 5 is emaciated and 1 is ideal. He weighed 21.5 kg with the matted fur and 18.5 kg after the 3 kg of matted fur was clipped off (14% of intake body weight).
The urine-soaked fur was causing dermatitis (inflammation of the skin) and the faecal soiling was conducive to the parasitic infestation observed. Buddy was suffering myiasis, a live infestation of fly larvae. Varying sizes of live maggots were eating his flesh causing severe pain and discomfort.
Buddy also had a heavy flea burden with flea nests throughout his coat, bilateral entropion (rolling in of lower eyelids) with suspected secondary infection, and advanced dental disease. Following the examination, the Old English Sheepdog was determined by the veterinarian to be in such a physical condition that it was cruel to keep alive and was humanely euthanised.
Rusty was given a body score of 4, where 5 is emaciated and 1 is ideal, and weighed 8.2 kg before having his matted coat clipped and 7.9 kg after the fur was clipped off. His left eye had excessive watering, mucopurulent discharge (fluid containing mucus and pus), and conjunctivitis.
His skin was red and inflamed at the hind limbs and base of his tail, where most of a live flea infestation was concentrated, and he also had dental disease and a ravenous appetite.
On Thursday 21 November 2019, the accused attended the RSPCA shelter in Yagoona to participate in an interview where he stated that he and his wife both owned the seized dogs, but he was the person in charge of fulfilling of their day-to-day needs.
The 56-year-old stated that Buddy was last taken to the vet about three years ago and Rusty was last taken to the vet a little bit over three years ago. He continued to say that both dogs are regularly fed dog biscuits, and that he had not noticed any problems with their eating habits, however they were both not fed on the morning of 13 November 2019.
In reference to Buddy’s matted fur, the man claimed the last time the dog was professionally groomed was approximately at the time of Christmas 2018, he did not want to shave the dog right down because of the cold weather.
He said that he had not noticed the dog’s emaciation because of the layers of matted fur that covered the body, however he claimed that he was aware that Buddy was thinner than usual but put it down to the dog’s age. At no stage did the man think that Buddy needed to see a vet.
The man was also oblivious to Buddy’s maggot infestation, eye infection, overgrown nails, and dental disease. He was aware that both Buddy and Rusty had fleas and claimed he was giving them flea treatment, but it was hard to keep them down.
“As a pet owner, you are responsible for the welfare of your animals for the entirety of the time they are in your care,” said RSPCA NSW Chief Inspector Scott Meyers.
“Responsible pet ownership involves ensuring your pet does not needlessly suffer, there is no excuse.”
Rusty was made available for adoption and has since found his forever home.
Warning: Images are graphic.