Whyalla couple given suspended prison term for starving dog and her seven pups

A Whyalla couple who allowed their young dog and her seven puppies to starve were convicted in the Whyalla Magistrates Court yesterday after pleading guilty to three counts of animal ill-treatment.

In sentencing the man and woman (both aged 30) to a two-month jail term, suspended on an 18-month good behaviour bond, Magistrate Luke Davis expressed disgust as he viewed photos showing the condition of the animals when seized by an RSPCA South Australia Inspector.

“It was sickening to look at those photos. If members of the community could see those photos they would be very upset as we all were having to see them,” His Honour said.

“It was appalling the state those dogs were found in.”

Responding to a cruelty report, an RSPCA SA Inspector attended at the couple’s Whyalla Stuart property on 3 January 2023. The female defendant advised the Inspector that her three-year-old dog, named Macaroni, was skinny due to having recently suffered the parvo virus as well as giving birth to seven puppies.

In the backyard, the Inspector found all the animals suffering ringworm and in extremely emaciated condition with two-year-old Macaroni having a body condition score of 1/9 and her puppies 2/9. A male adult dog in good body condition was also sighted. After the defendant had agreed to surrender the mother and puppies, the Inspector provided her with dog food and feeding instructions and arranged to collect the animals the next day.

On returning the next day accompanied by an RSPCA SA Officer and a volunteer, the Inspector found no-one home. The team entered the backyard, as per permission previously granted by the female defendant, where they found one of the puppies lying down and barely breathing. The puppy was immediately transferred to RSPCA’s Whyalla shelter and humanely euthanased.

Macaroni and her six remaining puppies were transferred directly to RSPCA’s Lonsdale shelter, where all underwent vet checks and were placed on medication and strict feeding plans. Within 36 days Macaroni’s weight had almost doubled from 13kg to 25.6kg.

All the animals made full recoveries and most have now been rehomed.

Magistrate Davis agreed with RSPCA SA’s legal counsel that it was a serious case that warranted a penalty of imprisonment. In addition to the suspended prison term, the defendants are forbidden from owning any animals other than the male adult dog named Bucky as he was not in poor body condition and not taken into RSPCA SA care.

The defendants have been allowed to keep Bucky on condition that they get the dog registered, desexed and provided with a basic kennel within 60 days. They were also ordered to provide access to Bucky, who will be subject to supervision by an RSPCA Inspector over the next twelve months.

Due to the defendants’ financial circumstances, RSPCA SA did not seek costs other than $375 court fees for each defendant.

Under SA’s Animal Welfare Act, the maximum penalty for animal cruelty is $20,000 or two years’ imprisonment. For an aggravated cruelty offence, the maximum penalty is $50,000 or four years’ imprisonment.

RSPCA South Australia is the state’s only animal welfare charity with inspectors empowered to prosecute animal cruelty under SA’s Animal Welfare Act.

Members of the public who witness animal cruelty or neglect are urged to immediately call RSPCA’s 24-hour cruelty report hotline on 1300 477 722.

/Public Release. View in full here.