Man avoids jail after leaving dog to starve to death in basement [Warning: upsetting images]

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A man from Dewsbury narrowly avoided jail after he left his pet dog to starve to death in the basement kitchen of his house after he moved out.

Steven Hartley left his pet rottweiler, Freya, behind in November 2016 when he moved out of his rented house. The RSPCA were called to the address on March 9, after the landlord Freya’s emaciated body in a basement kitchen full of faeces. She weighed just 10kg.

A dead snake called Eight Ball was also found in a tank in a living room in a small vivarium with “no ultraviolet or heat lamps on inside and no food and water was present”.

Inspector Gemma Fowler was sent to the scene. She said, “The floor was completely covered in faeces. So much so, that I couldn’t say what the actual floor was made of. It was basically a carpet of faeces.”

The tenfold increase in maximum custodial sentences for animal cruelty has come too late for this case

“I walked through this and over to the dog. I could see that she was deceased and was also in poor bodily condition. I can only describe her as being skin and bones. I could pretty much see her entire skeleton through her fur and she was covered in flies and other insects.

“The claws on all of her feet were also overgrown. I looked around the room and could see that there were two bowls on the floor but both of these were empty.

“There were a number of bags of dog food on the worktops but these were also empty. I could not see any food or water available in the room.”

Both animals were found to have been emaciated, though the snake’s body was too decomposed to pinpoint a cause of death. 

Freya was left to starve after her owner moved out without her

Freya’s likely cause of death was found to be a combination of malnutrition and lack of water, and the vet’s opinion is that she “suffered for weeks prior to her death”, as she was left to starve.

Once tracked down, Hartley admitted owning the pets, but he claimed the snake had died before he moved out of the property and “as he was being evicted he had nowhere to take Freya”.

Despite coming “extremely close to an immediate custodial sentence” according to the magistrates, Hartley was given a 16-week suspended sentence, as well as a ban on keeping animals and a costs to pay at his hearing on Friday 18 June.

The tenfold increase in maximum custodial sentences for animal cruelty has come too late for this case, which shows just how inadequate the maximum sentence of six months in prison truly was – resulting in a slap on the wrist for a man who left his dog to starve to death.

It now remains to be seen to what extent this will help lead to stiffer sentences and ensure the punishment truly does fit the crime

As the law was passed, Defra stated, “The new maximum penalty will enable courts to take a firmer approach to cases such as dog fighting, abuse of puppies and kittens, illegally cropping a dog’s ears and gross neglect of farm animals.

“The more stringent sentences will be some of the toughest in Europe. The Act will help ensure courts are able to enforce extended penalties for those who cruelly mistreat any animal, sending a clear message that animal cruelty will not be tolerated.”

It now remains to be seen to what extent this will help lead to stiffer sentences and ensure the punishment truly does fit the crime, with anyone letting an animal suffer for weeks unable to avoid jail time – narrowly or otherwise.

Images by RSPCA

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