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Magistrate found to be neglecting her pet dogs severe skin condition

Magistrate found to be neglecting her pet dogs severe skin condition

Both dogs were found to be suffering from a severe skin disease which had left them bald, or nearly bald, and with thickened skin.

A defendant who sat as a Magistrate for over 30 years was convicted, along with her daughter, for causing unnecessary suffering to her two West Highland white terriers. She had presided our cases of cruelty and neglect, where she had commented that she didn't like animal neglect.

Choosing DIY treatment over continuing vet tests

Dog with severe skin condition © RSPCA The defendants had owned the dogs since they were puppies. The first dog developed skin issues as a puppy and had been taken to a vet where she underwent tests to establish the cause and treat the condition. However, in the owner's opinion, the veterinary treatment didn't work and they didn't return her to the vets.

Rather than seeking the opinion or diagnosis of an alternative vet they opted to self-diagnose and self-treat. This clearly didn't work and the dog deteriorated to the state she was found in.

It was instantly obvious how bad the skin conditions were

One of our inspectors said she could smell the dogs as soon as she went into the house. She was shocked by the severity of their fur loss and skin conditions. The dogs were constantly rubbing and scratching themselves in discomfort to the point of making themselves bleed.

Both dogs had the appearance of being much older than three-years-old. The first dog was wearing a grubby baby's jumper which smelt awful. The mother put this on her to try to stop her skin from bleeding. For two years she had remained untreated, two-thirds of her young life. The second dog had never been taken to a vet for her skin problems and yet both dogs were insured making their appalling state even more unnecessary and avoidable.

The inspector took the dogs for examination by a vet. The vet found that they both had lichenified (thick and leathery) skin. The second dog shook her head and scratched throughout the examination and gnawed at her legs and body. Her feet were reddened with a mild abrasion.

Gruby baby jumper used to cover up dog's skin condition © RSPCA As the grubby grey baby jumper was gently removed from the first dog, it became apparent that it was stuck to her skin. It was particularly bad around her armpits, front legs and chest. Her ear canals had a crusty discharge and her skin was likened to 'elephant hide'.

Blood and skin samples were taken and the dogs remained at the veterinary surgery to receive treatment. The results found the first dog was allergic to house dust mites and the second dog to certain food. Both dogs also had secondary bacterial infections.

The vet concluded both dogs had suffered for many months due to the long term skin inflammation and irritation. He was of the opinion that the condition had been present for months or even years. The inflammation present showed that the condition was chronic in nature.

Skin improved after proper treatment

Dog looking better after treatment © RSPCA Two weeks later, after treatment had commenced, both dogs had improved markedly. Their skin was no longer scaly and there were no significant areas of inflammation. Some hair had started to grow back and they were no longer scratching or shaking their heads.

The magistrate wouldn't accept the dogs suffered, saying that they were the most looked after dogs there are. When interviewed she said the treatment they'd been given by their vet didn't work, so they stopped going and instead self-treated following research from the internet. This didn't work either. She confirmed the first dog had had her skin condition since she was six-eight months old and the second since she was 10 months old.

She accepted she was responsible for not meeting the needs of the dogs but didn't accept that the dogs were suffering or that she was responsible for any suffering. When asked, she confirmed she wouldn't have taken the dogs to the vet had our inspector not attended. The second defendant refused to be interviewed.

Disregarded vet advice

Our inspector said:

I observed the dogs constantly shaking their body, constantly scratching themselves and in the first dog's case to the point of making herself bleed. It was relentless and it clearly showed just how uncomfortable and irritated they were by their conditions.

A new treatment plan was put in place and the vet advised that the first dog needed to be brought back 7-10 days later but that never happened.

[The magistrate] said she didn't think the vet treatment was working so decided to self-treat the condition after seeking advice from the internet and friends instead.

When the second dog started to get similar symptoms she was never taken to the vet. This is despite both dogs having 'ultimate' Petplan insurance which could have covered the treatment.

She added:

I hope the message that comes from this case is that if your pet has any health problems, you must not use or rely on the internet to try and self-diagnose and treat your pet but seek the professional and qualified advice and treatment of a vet. If money is an issue, there are vets out there for those on a low income.

The severity of the skin conditions and fur loss suffered by these dogs was the worst I've seen in my 15-year career. They were in an absolutely shocking state.

Case outcome

Following a trial, the defendants were both found guilty and convicted of causing unnecessary suffering to the dogs by failing to provide proper and necessary veterinary care and attention for their chronic and severe skin conditions. They were both disqualified from keeping dogs for five years, sentenced to 200 hours of unpaid work and ordered to pay £500 in costs each.

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