11 August 2020

A 55-year-old woman from Yanchep was sentenced for animal cruelty in Joondalup Magistrate’s Court on Friday, 7 August 2020.

The charges under section 19(2)(a) of the Animal Welfare Act 2002 relate to the ill-treatment of her dog, Missy, a Maltese type female dog.

She was fined $5000 and ordered to pay legal costs of $267.50. She was also ordered to pay $600.41 to the RSPCA for the costs of caring for the dog. She is also prohibited permanently from being in charge of any animal.

Missy has been forfeited to the Crown. She is currently in RSPCA WA’s care, continuing to receive treatment.

Missy, a Maltese-cross dog with severely matted coatOn 12 January 2020, a City of Wanneroo Ranger responded to a call of an abandoned dog that was wondering the streets of Yanchep. The Ranger noticed the dog appeared to be in poor body condition and was struggling to walk. The dog’s coat was so thickly matted that the Ranger found it difficult to locate a collar or determine the dog’s gender.

Missy was taken to an emergency vet, where she was assessed. The vet determined she was in very poor condition, emaciated, and had huge mats and felting over her face, eyes, ears, neck, all four limbs and tail. The claws on Missy’s right rear foot were embedded about 1.5cm. She also had an injury on her right rear leg, but it could not be adequately assessed due to the matting.

MIssy, Maltese-cross dogDue to the severity of the matting and overgrown and embedded nails, the vet had to sedate Missy in order to clip her fur and trim her nails.

RSPCA WA received a cruelty report about Missy the following day (13 January 2020). An Inspector attended the vet surgery and seized Missy and two large bags of fur that had been collected from her. Missy was taken to the RSPCA Animal Care Centre for further assessment and treatment.

RSPCA WA vets carefully assessed Missy, and determined that, in addition to being emaciated, she had marked muscle atrophy of her right hind leg, mild dental disease requiring several teeth to be extracted, and a cataract on her left eye.

Missy, Maltese-cross dog, had her hind leg bandaged from an injury that was left untreated.An external veterinary orthopaedic specialist was called in to assess the injury on Missy’s leg. Missy’s owner told Rangers that Missy’s leg had been crushed and she thought she had nerve damage. The specialist determined the injury to Missy’s right hind leg was a calcaneal tendon injury with deformity of the calcaneus (the ankle area).

The evidence from the Ranger, the initial vet, the RSPCA WA vet and the veterinary orthopaedic specialist showed that:

  • Missy’s emaciated state had been caused by a failure to provide adequate nutrition and/or appropriate diet for several weeks.
  • It would have taken several months for Missy’s coat to reach full length and become so matted – this frequently leads to severe discomfort as the coat would pull on the skin causing trauma and irritation.
  • Had Missy’s owner sought treatment when the leg injury first occurred, it may have been possible to reconstruct the tendon, returning function to that leg.

MIssy, Maltese-cross dog, has recovered in foster careDuring the course of the investigation, the RSPCA Inspector discovered that as far back as 2013, Missy had been lame in her right hind leg. She had also been taken to a vet on at least three occasions between 2013 and 2017, where vet records showed that Missy was not in good condition, her coat was extremely matted, and her nails were overgrown.

Missy’s owner had claimed that she was taken to another vet more recently, but the investigation revealed that that vet had no record of Missy or her owner on file.

Missy remains in RSPCA WA care. She received initial medical treatment for her various conditions at the RSPCA WA Animal Care Centre before being placed with a foster carer, where she has gained weight slowly, been groomed daily and continues to receive regular vet checks.

Comments attributed to RSPCA WA Deputy Chief Inspector Sharon Morgan.

“This is an awful example of routine, ongoing neglect that has caused years of unnecessary suffering which could have easily been prevented.

“Our pets rely on us for all their basic needs. Missy’s all round poor condition, the irritating heavy matting and embedded claws could have all easily been avoided with an appropriate diet and regular grooming.

“Had her injury been treated when it first occurred, Missy could have led a much happier life.

“When bringing a pet into your home, it is important to understand the full scope of what is required as an owner. This is especially true for pets with longer coats, who require daily brushing, and clipping every 6-8 weeks.

“And seeking medical treatment is so important. If you find yourself in a position where you can’t afford vet treatment, please ask for help before it’s too late and your pet suffers.”