Professional couple cops heavy fine over starving dog
A BUSY professional couple was this week found to have left their pet staghound cross so underfed that its ribs and pelvic bones were sticking out of its lethargic and emaciated body.
A court heard RSPCA inspectors went to the couple's home and rescued their dog Bella, and Damien and his wife Ashtika O'Connor were charged with offences under the Animal Care and Protection Act.
On Friday they went before Ipswich Magistrates Court for sentence, where it was heard they had owned Bella for six years.
Damien O'Connor, 37, from Collingwood Park and Ashtika O'Connor, 25, both pleaded guilty to failing to feed Bella, a female Staghound cross type dog in June 2020; and breaching their duty of care by failing to provide appropriate living conditions between June 7 and June 23 last year.
In agreed facts put to the court by RSPCA prosecutor Vanessa Lyons, Bella first came to the attention of the RSPCA when she was found eating from a bin in April 2019.
She was taken into care as it was assumed she was a stray dog.
A veterinarian found her to be emaciated and suffering muscle loss all over her body, and with mild dental disease.
Damien O'Connor, who was found to be her owner, was issued a vet directive to have Bella assessed by a vet and put on a feeding plan.
Then 14 months later in June last year, after receiving a complaint about an underweight and lethargic dog, an RSPCA inspector went to the O'Connor house and found Bella tethered to a pole with a rope.
She did not have access to food or adequate water, shelter and bedding.
Bella was tethered and entangled and could not access a bowl that held a small amount of water.
The court heard the dog did not move while the inspector was present.
Ashtika O'Connor told the inspector that she was fed twice a day but did not eat much.
"Now that you bring it up, she does look a little skinny," Mrs O'Connor reportedly said to the inspector.
Bella required two people to help her stand before she walked to the inspector's car to be taken for veterinary treatment.
An examination showed she had severe muscle wastage over her entire body, emaciated with visible ribs and pelvic bones.
There was haziness to the centre of the lens of her eyes and moderate dental disease.
The court was told Bella ate ravenously when provided dog kibble, chicken and treats.
Ashtika O'Connor told RSPCA staff in an interview that they had been told by a dog washer that fleas were the likely cause of Bella's weight loss.
She said that because Bella did not like dog food, they would cook specific meals to feed her including mince, pasta and mixed vegetables.
Damien O'Connor said he was very remorseful and after reclaiming Bella from the RSPCA in 2019 he had researched dog nutrition.
He said he fed her two to three times a day and she put on weight, but more recently she lost weight and he had intended to see a vet.
Defence lawyer Joe Wicking said the couple had no criminal history and worked very long hours in their professional employment.
"Unfortunately this has contributed to the lack of care they have ultimately shown Bella," Mr Wicking said.
"Unfortunately they let things slip.
"Both are very remorseful and fully co-operated with the RSPCA. They surrendered Bella and paid veterinary costs."
Mr Wicking said all matters had been put fairly before the court by the prosecution.
He sought a good behaviour bond and fines as a suitable penalty.
Magistrate Andy Cridland said there were many factors in the couple's favour but when looking at the photos of Bella at the time it should have been obvious that their dog was in need of some assistance.
He said deterrence was needed and he fined the couple $1500 each. He ordered that 50% be given to the RSPCA as moiety.
The couple will also need RSPCA permission if they want to acquire a pet within the next three years.