Five-year ban for Pendle owner who left dog with chronic ear condition and severe fur loss

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A woman from Colne who repeatedly ignored warnings to take her dog for urgent veterinary treatment has been banned from keeping animals for five years.
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Nine-year-old labrador Robin had extensive fur loss and a chronic ear infection which a vet said would have caused him ‘significant suffering’ for at least two months.

Despite being given a voucher by the RSPCA to help with veterinary costs his owner, Amanda Hawkins, of Keighley Avenue, failed to take her pet for treatment, saying she had mislaid it.

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Nine-year-old labrador RobinNine-year-old labrador Robin
Nine-year-old labrador Robin

At a sentencing hearing, Hawkins, 50, was given a five-year disqualification order after previously admitting one animal welfare offence following an investigation and prosecution by the RSPCA.

Blackburn Magistrates’ Court heard that Robin was removed from her house on October 4 last year after a veterinary certificate confirmed the dog was suffering or likely to suffer if circumstances didn’t change.

In written evidence to the court, inspector Vicki Brooks, who attended the property, said: “I was immediately aware of an unpleasant smell that I associate with dogs that have skin issues. I advised her that I was there to check that she had taken her dog for veterinary treatment in relation to a number of health issues.

“Robin was in lean body condition and had extensive fur loss and a skin condition affecting most of his body. I could see patches where he had scratched or rubbed himself to the point of bleeding. His ears were swollen and deformed and he was shaking his head regularly which was a sign that he most likely also had an ear infection

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“Amanda Hawkins told me that she had not had Robin to the vet because she could not afford it. I reminded her that a previous colleague had issued her with an assistance voucher to contribute towards her veterinary costs and she told me she had lost the voucher.”

Hawkins was told that Robin required urgent veterinary treatment and as she had not followed previous advice, animal welfare offences may have been committed. She agreed for the officer to take him and he was seen at the RSPCA’s Greater Manchester Animal Hospital later that day.

In written evidence, the vet who saw him, said: “Robin had signs of chronic ear problems. Both the left and right ear canal were markedly thickened meaning it was not possible to examine them while he was conscious. There was a diffuse reddening of the skin over much of the dog’s body with thinning hair especially over the back. The presence of live flaws was also noted.

“Examination under a general anaesthetic showed that the right ear canal was narrowed so far as being completely closed over. The extent of scarring, thickening and signs of infection in both ears are likely to be associated with significant pain and discomfort for this dog. Aural haematomas, as suspected in this case, often arise from head shaking as a result of ongoing ear irritation/infection.

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“Ear disease with this appearance takes some time to develop. In the early stages a simple ear infection may not cause significant suffering, but the level of scarring seen here is likely to have caused significant suffering for at least two months, likely significantly longer.”

Robin’s skin made some improvement over the next two weeks, but the vet said the condition of his ears was considered to be end of life stage. Invasive surgery, such as a total ear canal ablation, was a possibility, but he said for an older dog with other concurrent skin issues it was not in their best interest, and the decision was made to sadly put Robin to sleep on welfare grounds.

The court heard that different RSPCA officers had repeatedly gone back to the house to check that Robin had been taken for treatment after the charity had given Hawkins a welfare assistance voucher, but she was either not in or failed to respond to phone calls and cards. On one occasion she partially opened the front door and then closed it again when she saw who was outside. On another visit she told an RSPCA officer she was going to ask someone she knew to take Robin to the vet as they only lived round the corner.

During the course of the investigation it was also revealed that the veterinary practice where she said her dog was registered, had never seen him before.

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In interview, Hawkins said that Robin had started nibbling himself and that he was treated regularly for fleas and bathed in flea shampoo. She said she had switched his food to wheat free but that got too expensive and nothing had worked.

In addition to the five-year ban on keeping animals, she was also given a 12 month community order and told to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work and pay a £114 victim surcharge.

RSPCA deputy chief inspector Susie Micallef, who was also involved in the investigation, said: “This was a particularly sad case to deal with. Robin’s suffering could have been avoided had he received early veterinary intervention and his owner acted on the help and support that had been given to her.”

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