Two extremely thin Staffie-type dogs, Bruno and Roxy, were found in a Runcorn home last November during a police search for unrelated offences. Both were so emaciated and weak they could barely stand, and their living conditions were described by the RSPCA as “atrocious”.
RSPCA inspector Lisa Lupson went to the property after being contacted by the police, and she was horrified by what she found.
“Both dogs were very thin, particularly Bruno. He was so weak that as soon as I got him to a vet he was put on a drip. He was very lethargic and subdued, and wasn’t responding to us at all," she said. “As well as being underfed, the dogs were living in horrific conditions. Upstairs of the house was atrocious, there was rubbish absolutely everywhere and dog poo all over the floor. It was in no way the best environment for dogs to live in."
Sadly, despite all efforts, Bruno was beyond help and had to be put to sleep on health grounds. Roxy has since been rehomed.
The people living at the property - Michelle Baldwin, 40, and her sons Shaun and Shane - all appeared at North Cheshire Magistrates’ Court on 6 July to be sentenced, having pled guilty to three offences – two of causing unnecessary suffering to the dogs and one of failing to provide a suitable environment.
They were all banned from keeping animals for ten years; Michelle received an eight-week prison sentence suspended for six months, while her sons were both given a 12-month community order and told to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work. They also had to pay costs of £100 each.
“The message is clear – if you decide to take animals on then you must be able to meet their needs and provide them with the kind of life they deserve,” Lupson says.
The sentence may seem lenient, but it is in line with England and Wales' current penalties for animal cruelty. With a maximum prison sentence of six months, it is the lowest across all Europe, the United States and Australia.
The Battersea Dogs and Cats Home launched a campaign in February calling for harsher sentences, which has received overwhelming support from the public as well as from celebrities - some of whom lent their faces to the cause.
Images by RSPCA.