A dog owner has been spared jail after her Shih Tzu was left barely able to see, move or breathe when its filthy coat grew into a "big ball of wool".
Maureen Bracken, of Edenmore Avenue, Raheny, Dublin, was convicted under the Animal Health and Welfare Act for neglecting her pet and causing unnecessary suffering from September 2020 until February this year.
Inspector Tony McGovern from the Dublin Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (DSPCA) told Judge Anthony Halpin that on February 26th, a member of the public made a complaint.
He visited Bracken's home and was brought to the dog's shed in her back garden.
"I was not sure if it was a dog or not," he told Dublin District Court. He asked Bracken to call the dog, but it had great difficulty walking.
The seven-year-old dog's coat was "heavily matted" after months of neglect.
Unsuccessful home grooming
The woman explained that she had tried to groom the Shih Tzu since September last year with a home-kit, but she was unsuccessful. She told the DSPCA inspector she had been unable to leave her house due to covid-19.
He furnished the court with pictures of the Shih Tzu before and after the woman surrendered it to the DSPCA.
"It is like a big ball of wool," remarked Judge Halpin looking at the before picture. The inspector agreed with the description, saying he had difficulty telling that it was a dog.
DSPCA vet Eadaoin Murphy told the court the stench of urine and faeces from the dog "would sting your eyes". The dog was too uncomfortable to allow her to carry out an examination.
Dr Murphy said the Shih Tzu could not see, and she sedated the animal to remove matting over the front of its eyes.
The vet confirmed the pet could not move from the "out of hand" matting.
She added that it was all around its body restricting the dog’s joints.
Urine was caked in the pet's hair. In Dr Murphy's opinion, the dog would have suffered physically and emotionally.
She also agreed with Judge Halpin that it could have been prevented.
The DSPCA removed almost a kilo of hair from the pet.
The court heard that otherwise, the dog was in good condition and well-fed.
The woman said she bought a home kit to groom the dog, but it got damaged, and she tried to cut her pet's coat.
Upset, Bracken pleaded that she did her best to manage the Shih Tzu’s coat.
Because of coronavirus, she could not go out to have it groomed.
She disputed evidence that the dog could not move, and she claimed it had been running around her garden on the day the DSPCA inspector visited.
She told the court she had dogs all her life and would never ill-treat one. Asked about the stink from the dog, she replied, “I have no smell”.
“That is a relief,” the judge commented.
She had no prior convictions.
Judge Halpin said it was "a very serious case of maltreatment of a lovely little dog" and put it between eight and nine on a scale of one to 10.
He noted it was clearly in pain, and the DSPCA inspector at first could not tell it was a dog.
He asked her if she was a pensioner, to which she replied no, but he noted there was still a mortgage on her home.
Noting her circumstances and that the Shih Tzu has been re-homed, he fined her €100 and ordered her to pay €300 towards prosecution costs. However, the penalty level did not mean it was not a serious case, he also said.