14 April 2023

RSPCA WA has shared heartbreaking images of emaciated dogs currently in care, as it grapples with a record number of cruelty reports about starving pets.

The animal charity has fielded, on average, five calls a day so far this year about pets without adequate food or water. A huge 454 reports have come in since 1 January, which is a five-year high and a 24 per cent jump on the same period last year.

RSPCA WA Executive Manager Animal and Enforcement Operations Hannah Dreaver said there was no single reason behind the surge in cases, but it was clear cost of living pressures were a contributing factor.

‘We provide free pet food and health checks at various locations around WA every year and owners tell us they’re finding it increasingly difficult to afford proper care for their animals,’ she said.

‘RSPCA WA is sympathetic to these struggles, and we always try to assist where we can but when an animal comes to us as little more than skin and bone it’s clear the owner has taken too long to acknowledge their financial situation is impacting on their ability to care for their pet.’Starving dog Zuko in RSPCA WA's care.

In recent weeks, RSPCA WA has taken in a string of starving dogs, like three-year-old American Bulldog Harmony, who weighed just 17kg when she came into care. She should be around 25kg. Meanwhile, one-year-old Bull Arab Zuko weighed a sad 22kg—his weight needs to be increased by a third.

Ms Dreaver said female dogs with puppies were particularly prone to becoming underweight.

‘Sadly, we see a lot of underweight mums owned by backyard breeders who don’t have the knowledge or money to provide proper nutrition and care,’ she said.

‘If your dog is becoming underweight for any reason, it’s your responsibility to be proactive, seek vet care or advice, and ensure they’re getting enough nutrition.

‘If you can’t afford this, reach out to friends, family, or rescue groups like RSPCA WA to discuss your options. It’s not fair to simply let your pet go hungry.’

Ms Dreaver said emaciated dogs who came into RSPCA WA required a high level of care to prevent issues like refeeding syndrome, which can be life-threatening.

‘It can take months for RSPCA WA to rehabilitate an emaciated dog,’ she said.

‘Some dogs require meals as frequently as every four hours during their initial treatment. Even once they’ve recovered physically, many exhibit behaviour issues such as resource guarding, which require additional time in care and training.

‘Dogs who have been emaciated can also suffer long-term health problems as a result of their neglect–this is another reason pet owners must reach out sooner rather than later.’

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 online here. For details about upcoming Community Action Day events, which support struggling pet owners, click here.