A couple have been banned for 15 years after they let their dog become so matted she was unable to walk properly, and even struggled to open her mouth to eat.

Michael Esmond Bennett and partner Susan Jones have pleaded guilty to two charges of causing unnecessary suffering to their 12-year-old Shih-Tzu. Wirral Magistrates’ Court heard how the dog was rescued by the RSPCA after the animal welfare charity received a report concerning the dog’s welfare.

It was the worst case of matting I have seen in my nine years as an inspector

When RSPCA inspector Anthony Joynes was sent to investigate on 2 October last year, poor Molly was in such a terrible state he couldn’t tell her back from her front as she appeared to be a ball of long and filthy matted fur.

Inspector Joynes said, “We received a report about the dog’s condition following a fire in the street which meant the house where she lived was evacuated and a concerned member of the public spotted her poor condition.

“When I went to the property I was so shocked – I honestly could not tell where her mouth was and where her back end was. Then I picked her up and could see weeks of faeces stuck in her matted fur at the back.

Molly when rescued

“The matting was so bad round her paws it meant she struggled to walk and there was a chin strap matt around her mouth which meant she was unable to open it properly which would have made eating and drinking very difficult.

“The fur growth had also caused a chronic eye condition which was also causing the dog a lot of discomfort. She also had a bad case of fleas which she was unable to scratch. It was the worst case of matting I have seen in my nine years as an inspector.”

The couple signed the Shih-Tzu over into the care of the RSPCA and Anthony immediately took her to Upton Veterinary Surgery in Birkenhead for emergency treatment. Staff then determined Molly was unable to walk properly because fur had grown around her front paw pad, making it grow the wrong way.

Molly after life-saving hair shave

The vet team spent five hours clipping and shaving poor Molly, cutting off two kilograms of matted fur and going through three sets of clipper blades. Once the filthy matted fur was removed, Molly was found to have a deformed front paw, but an x-ray revealed her back legs were in good condition.

Anthony said, “We were really worried that under all the matted fur we may find more serious concerns. Often in these cases the matting can cut off circulation which can result in multiple limb amputation. We didn’t know if this would be the case for Molly and fortunately it wasn’t.”

As well as the 15-year ban on keeping animals, the couple were also ordered to be under curfew from 7am until 7pm for three months and were ordered to pay £200 costs each. In mitigation, the court was told that the couple had ill health and were struggling to cope with the dog. An appointment was booked with the PDSA charity to have Molly groomed a year earlier, but the couple did not attend as they were concerned the dog would be taken from them. 

Molly after treatment

Molly was featured on Channel 5’s The Dog Rescuers, which aired on Boxing Day, and she has now been rehomed, looking like a completely different dog. Shelby Ford is now the proud owner of Molly and said it was love at first sight when she went to visit the Wirral and Chester RSPCA, in Wallasey, with hopes of adopting a dog.

She is such an adorable dog and loves everyone she meets – especially young children, including both my grandchildren

The 47-year-old, whose granddaughter Penelope is pictured below, said, “I had two lovely Cavalier King Charles Spaniels but sadly they died months apart and I was devastated. It took a while before I wanted another dog but I just felt the house was so quiet without one.

“So I was walking past the RSPCA branch and just called in to talk about getting a dog and Molly was there in reception on her bed. She looked so sweet. Then she came over and licked me on the nose – I knew straight away she was coming home with me – we just connected.”

Molly with Shelby’s granddaughter Penelope

The pair have since become inseparable and are often seen going for walks in the area. As Molly gets tired very easily due to her leg issues, Shelby has brought her a pram.

Shelby added, “The dog pram really helps her when she is struggling and it means we can go out and about together. She is such an adorable dog and loves everyone she meets – especially young children, including both my grandchildren.

“I am delighted I found her and the RSPCA staff at the branch who helped me were wonderful – me and Molly still call in to see them and she still gets lots of fuss.”

Images courtesy of the RSPCA

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