Findon woman jailed for letting dog starve to death in her backyard

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When police officers found the three-year-old Staffordshire Bull Terrier cross “Harvey”, he was lying against a backyard fence, whimpering and unable to get off the ground with ants, fleas and other insects crawling over his body.

The RSPCA said Harvey was in such an emaciated state that his entire skeleton was visible and he was opening and closing his mouth, indicating he was extremely thirsty.

Despite barely being able to lift his head, he wagged his tail at the sound of the officer’s friendly voice.

On Friday, his owner, a 49-year-old woman, was jailed for two-and-a-half months after pleading guilty in the Port Adelaide Magistrates Court to a charge of aggravated cruelty for causing serious injury to a dog.

Harvey was found starving to death in the backyard of his Findon home in December 2020 after South Australia police received a report of a distressed and emaciated dog.

When the RSPCA was notified, Harvey was rushed to an emergency vet clinic.

Due to the severity of Harvey’s condition and level of suffering, the vet made the decision to euthanize him.

At his subsequent examination of Harvey’s body, RSPCA SA Chief Vet Dr. Brad Ward that it was “one of the worst cases of body waste I have seen in a career of 13 years with the RSPCA”.

An autopsy confirmed malnutrition and starvation as the cause of death and revealed that Harvey had been eating grass in his final days.

A photo of the exterior of the Port Adelaide Magistrates Court building
The woman was sentenced in the Port Adelaide Magistrates Court today. (ABC News: Meagan Dillon)

The RSPCA said the woman told inspectors Harvey belonged to her daughter, who had moved out, and admitted the dog would go without food for four or five days at a time and she was not “on the ball” about giving water.

The RSPCA said the woman tried to argue in court that she could not afford to feed Harvey, but Judge Jayanthi Pandya rejected the claims, pointing out the defendant was able to fund a pack-a-day smoking habit.

“It is difficult to understand how you could buy cigarettes and not food for this animal,” Judge Pandya said.

“Redirecting responsibility to your daughter makes me question your remorse.

“Pet ownership is not a responsibility to be neglected or treated carelessly.”

The woman has already served the sentence because she was jailed earlier this year after her bail application was rejected.

She has been ordered to pay more than $600 in vet fees and court costs.

Under SA’s Animal Welfare Act, the maximum penalty for animal cruelty is $20,000 or two years in prison, which is doubled for an aggravated offence.

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