Martin Harrison from Christchurch overfed his Staffies until they were barrel shaped
A pet owner whose two dogs became so fat they couldn’t walk after being fed cheese and rice pudding for three years has been banned from keeping animals.
Martin Harrison, 58, allowed Staffordshire bull terriers Brucie and Lucy to become so overweight they were barrel shaped and buckled under their sheer size.
In court the Staffies were described as having been ‘obese’ and ‘barrel-like’, with fatty deposits under their skin, when they were seized under the Animal Welfare Act.
Harrison blamed his late mother for feeding the dogs ‘cheese and rice puddings’ but he confessed to occasionally spoiling them with cakes and doggy treats.
The dogs were ‘panting heavily’ and laid down in the consulting room of the vets after being seized by RSPCA inspectors.
During the time Harrison owned the dogs, Brucie’s weight ballooned from a healthy 46lbs to 82lbs – nearly six stone.
Lucy’s weight increased to 75lbs and she had a chronic ear condition which was also not treated.
Since they were seized in March last year the animals were put on a diet and now weigh about 50lbs each.
Both dogs have been permanently confiscated from Harrison, from Christchurch, Dorset, after magistrates made a deprivation order at Poole Magistrates’ Court.
He was also fined and has been disqualified from owning or keeping animals for two years.
Jeremy Lake, prosecuting, said: ‘Both dogs were grossly obese and barrel-like when they were seized under the Animal Welfare Act.
‘Brucie was panting constantly and laying down in the consulting room and had fatty deposits around his neck and back.
‘Lucy was also overweight and she had a chronic ear disease caused over a long term which caused suffering in the dog that a responsible and competent owner would not have allowed.’
Brucie the Staffordshire bull terrier at his largest size. Harrison was found guilty of causing ‘unnecessary suffering’
Brucie’s weight ballooned from a healthy 21kg to 33.5kg (nearly 6st) after Harrison, 58, over-fed him over a three and a half year period
Brucie (pictured) and Lucy were so overweight they were ‘barrel shaped’ and buckled under their sheer size
Lucy the Staffordshire bull terrier had a chronic ear infection (pictured) which the court heard a ‘responsible owner’ would have treated
The court heard that Harrison, who lived with is mother, bought Brucie and Lucy on Gumtree in November 2014.
The RSPCA was first alerted to their condition in December 2016 following a tip off from a member of the public and Harrison was visited by an an inspector and given advice on how to reduce their weight.
However, when he was visited again in January 2018 the inspector discovered both Brucie and Lucy had got even heavier.
Harrison was given a final warning by the RSPCA and two months later, following an independent vet’s report expressing concerns about their ‘suffering’, they were seized under the Animal Welfare Act on March 28.
Since both dogs were placed into the care of an animal rescue, Lucy’s ear has been operated on and their weights have returned to normal.
RSPCA inspector Tina Ward said: ‘Both dogs were grossly overweight and it was going to do long term damage to their health.
‘After a couple of minutes they would lay on the floor panting and they didn’t have any energy.
‘Now, they are lovely dogs full of energy who love to run around and play ball.’
Defending himself, Harrison explained that his late mother would feed the dogs cheese and rice-pudding despite him repeatedly asking her not to.
She stopped in January 2018, after which time the dogs began slimming down after he ordered a special weight loss food product for them on the internet.
Brucie the Staffordshire bull terrier as he is now, a much healthier weight
Lucy, the Staffordshire bull terrier as she is now. The dogs are now ‘full of energy’
Brucie the Staffordshire bull terrier now. An RSPCA inspector said: ‘Now, they are lovely dogs full of energy who love to run around and play ball’
Is my pet obese?
Obesity can be defined as an excess of body fat that is enough to impair health, welfare and quality of life.
Checking if your dog is overweight
To check if your dog is overweight, there are a few simple checks you can do:
- You should be able to see and feel the outline of your dog’s ribs without excess fat covering.
- You should be able to see and feel your dog’s waist and it should be clearly visible when viewed from above.
- Your dog’s belly should be tucked up when viewed from the side.
If your dog does not pass these checks, or if you are in any doubt, consult your vet. They will be able to provide a health check and if necessary recommend a weight reduction programme.
Checking if your cat is overweight
Check to see if your cat is overweight using the steps below:
- You should be able to see and feel your cats ribs, spine and hip bones.
- Your cats waist should be clearly visible when viewed from above.
- Your cats belly shouldn’t be sagging underneath, there should only be a small amount of belly fat.
If your cat doesn’t pass these checks speak to your vet who will be able to provide a health check and if necessary recommend a weight-loss programme to help them get back into tip-top condition.
Why does it matter?
The RSPCA says obesity is a serious welfare issue in pets because it can cause suffering and can be extremely disabling.
It is also likely to affect your pet’s ability to perform natural behaviours including exercising normally.
Pet obesity can also cause serious health problems, and make existing problems worse, which can reduce the length and quality of your pet’s life, including:
- heart disease
- respiratory diseases
- high blood pressure
Harrison, who has various chronic health issues, said he could not afford to take Lucy to the vets for a period of time, blaming former Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Iain Duncan Smith for stopping his benefits.
He said: ‘I admit the dogs were overweight but it wasn’t my fault because my mother over-fed them. When I hid the dog food she would give them rice pudding and cheese.
‘I tried to stop her but it was impossible with her Alzheimer’s. You can’t watch someone 24 hours a day.
‘Now she has died (in November 2018) I can look after the dogs properly.
‘Once I knew about the special dog food to help weight loss their weight started coming down.
‘Any missed vet appointments can be blamed on Iain Duncan Smith. My benefits were stopped and I had no money to take Lucy to the vets.
‘My dogs are my children. I miss them like crazy and I just want them back. I’ve got no one else.’
Harrison was found guilty of two counts of causing unnecessary suffering to his pets by not providing them with a healthy diet under the Animal Welfare Act (2006).
He was also found guilty of one count of failing to provide veterinary care for a severe ear disease under the same act.
Magistrates said Harrison had failed in his responsibility to prevent his dogs becoming ‘severely overweight’.
Chairman Colin Westom said: ‘As the owner of these two dogs they were your responsibility to care for them and that included their weight.
‘We accept the situation with your mother having dementia was very difficult and you couldn’t watch her 24 hours a day but the fact remains these dogs remained severely overweight despite several warnings from the RSPCA and the advice they gave you about managing this.
‘You frequently missed vets appointments over a long period and the ear remained unchecked when it was a significant disease that would have been clearly visible.
‘Your two dogs will not be returned to you as you have a long history of failing to care appropriately for them.’
Harrison was also fined £150, given a £30 victim surcharge and ordered to pay £100 in costs.