13 December 2023

A 39-year-old woman, whose two senior dogs were found matted and crawling with fleas at her Collie home earlier this year, has been sentenced for animal cruelty.

The woman appeared in the Bunbury Magistrates Court yesterday where she received a nine-month community-based order with program and supervision requirements. She was also ordered to pay $8,414.60 in compensation and legal costs. She received a spent conviction order.

In sentencing, Magistrate Andretich said, ‘These animals don’t have a voice – it makes them extremely vulnerable.’

An RSPCA WA inspector attended the offender’s property with local rangers on 5 January after concerns were raised about the dogs.

She found the Lhasa-Apso-type dogs, named Ruby and Max, with dirty and matted coats, scabs on their bodies, and patches of fur missing. They were scratching and biting themselves excessively.

The inspector seized both dogs and took them to a local vet clinic where Max was found to be anaemic due to his flea infestation, and Ruby was underweight, had dental problems and was suffering with a painful grass seed infection in her paw.

During questioning, the offender claimed she had groomed both dogs in recent months and said she had treated them for fleas using eucalyptus oil. She said she had not noticed either dog scratching or biting their skin or paws.

The dogs, who are aged around 11, have fully recovered and been adopted into loving homes.

RSPCA WA Inspector Manager Kylie Green said for dogs with long coats, regular washing and grooming was about much more than appearances.

‘When a dog’s fur gets matted, it can quickly lead to pain, restricted movement and even skin, eye or ear infections,’ she said.

‘Max’s coat had large dreadlocks, which would have taken many weeks to form. Both dogs were filthy and visibly crawling with fleas when they were seized.

‘Popular dogs like Maltese shih-tzus and poodles do require a higher level of care than other breeds, and that’s something owners must consider before committing to these dogs for 10 or more years.

‘If you are struggling to care for your animal, reach out to friends, family, or a rescue group like RSPCA WA before things get out of hand. Please don’t let your pet suffer.’

The offender was sentenced under sections 19(1) and 19(3)(h) of the Animal Welfare Act 2002. The court found Ruby and Max suffered harm which could have been alleviated by taking reasonable steps.

The RSPCA relies on the community to report incidents of suspected cruelty and neglect. Report cruelty 24/7 on 1300 CRUELTY (1300 278 358) or at rspcawa.org.au