RSPCA ACT has said it is disappointed after a man was spared a conviction when he was sentenced over the severely malnourished state of his pet dachshund, Slinky.
The 30-year-old pleaded guilty to a charge of failing to provide treatment for illness to an animal and appeared in the ACT Magistrates Court on Tuesday (11 October).
RSPCA inspectors had been called to his home in Gordon on 21 October 2022 over reports there was an emaciated dog at the premises, court documents say.
The man and his wife weren’t home, but the inspectors found Slinky in the backyard with a protruding spine, rib cage and pelvic region, as well as no visible body fat.
He was taken to a vet, who reported he was severely malnourished with a body condition score of one out of nine – the lowest possible score.
“[The vet] was of the opinion that the cause of the dog’s condition was from prolonged starvation of at least one month,” the documents say.
The man, who has since moved to Queensland, told inspectors he and his wife were aware Slinky was underweight as he had been sick for the past week and losing weight over the last couple of days.
An inspector suggested to him that dogs do not lose that much weight that quickly. The man later claimed the weight loss was over a week.
The man also said he had not taken his dog to a vet as he claimed he had started eating again.
Slinky underwent surgery and the vet removed a 72 cm piece of fabric from his stomach and intestine.
The vet concluded it may not have been possible for anyone to know the fabric was inside the dog.
“However, Slinky’s poor condition would have been clearly identifiable, and if veterinary intervention had been sought regarding the dog’s weight loss, the animal’s current condition could have been avoided,” the documents say.
The vet reported that Slinky could have died of starvation within a week if he hadn’t received veterinary care.
The dog was returned to the man and his wife in November 2022, along with a $4600 vet bill, which the man paid.
The charge the man pleaded guilty to carried a maximum penalty of $16,000, one year of imprisonment, or both.
On Tuesday, Magistrate James Lawton found the man’s offence was proved but imposed a non-conviction order.
In the wake of the decision, RSPCA ACT CEO Michelle Robertson said the organisation will continue to advocate for more stringent enforcement and sentencing of people in breach of the Animal Welfare Act.
“Animal welfare is our greatest concern, and we would like to see penalties where offenders are held accountable for their violations,” she said.
She said the ACT is an animal-loving community and there is an expectation that when RSPCA inspectors bring matters to court, offenders found in breach of the Animal Welfare Act will face commensurate penalties.
Mrs Robertson praised the member of the public for alerting the RSPCA to Slinky’s situation.
“I want to reassure all Canberrans that animal welfare is our number one priority, and if you see an animal that looks like it’s in distress, we want to know about it immediately,” she said.
To report a suspected case of animal neglect or animal cruelty, visit RSPCA ACT or call 6287 8100.