Woman given suspended prison term for failing to treat dog’s ‘appalling’ tumour

In Christies Beach Magistrates Court this morning, A 42-year-old woman was sentenced to three week’s imprisonment following her guilty plea on charges of failing to take reasonable steps to mitigate harm of an animal. The prison term was suspended upon entry into a 12-month good behaviour bond.

Serena Matuszewski, of Huntfield Heights, was also ordered to pay RSPCA South Australia legal and veterinary fees totalling $1300 and forbidden from owning any animals until further notice.

(Under South Australia’s Animal Welfare Act, maximum penalties for non-aggravated offences involving the ill treatment of an animal are two years in jail or a $20,000 fine. Aggravated offences of animal cruelty can result in maximum penalties of four years in jail or a $50,000 fine.)

RSPCA South Australia’s legal counsel, Chloe Swinden, told Magistrate Robert Harrap that the defendant had ignored her seven-year-old American Pit Bull Terrier cross’ desperate need for veterinary care for months.

The dog, named Buster, was found wandering as a stray in January 2018 with a large, ulcerated tumour in his groin. Alarmed by the dog’s condition, Onkaparinga council officers immediately took the animal to the Southern Animal Hospital in Morphett Vale where he was cared for overnight before being transferred to the RSPCA’s Lonsdale shelter. Magistrate Harrap described the tumour as “appalling”.

The tumour had caused severe disfigurement to the dog’s genitals, affecting his ability to pass urine. He was also in an emaciated condition, with a body condition score of 2.5/9. (On the BCS index, 1-3 is underweight, 4-5 is ideal and 6-9 is overweight/obese.)

RSPCA South Australia’s Chief Veterinarian Dr Brad Ward told the court he estimated the tumour would have been present for at least 6-12 months, and that the extent of advanced ulceration would have caused the dog significant pain for a long period. The tumour was so large and deep it was deemed inoperable, and the dog was humanely euthanased.

RSPCA South Australia Inspector Cheryl Doudle said it was hard to imagine how anyone could allow a dog to suffer from such an obviously serious condition for so long.

“This dog may have survived if he had received professional veterinary care when his owner first detected the tumour,” Ms Doudle said.

“Instead, she chose to ignore the gravity of her dog’s situation and in doing so allowed the tumour to grow to such an extent that it was unable to be successfully treated.

“The suffering this dog endured was severe, prolonged and totally unnecessary.

“Timely veterinary advice can not only save your animal’s life and prevent suffering, it can also save you large veterinary bills to have conditions treated in their early stages.”

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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