Suspended prison terms for couple who neglected pet dog

Both defendants were banned from owning or keeping any animal for 10 years at Carlisle Crown Court Credit: Craig McGlasson

A couple from West Cumbria whose dog became a “bag of bones” and endured suffering due to their neglect have been handed suspended prison sentences. They have also been banned from keeping any animal for 10 years.

Stephen Graham, 34, initially contacted the RSPCA in Whitehaven during November saying he wanted to re-home the family’s Staffordshire bull terrier Keanu. 

Graham said it had been sick, was losing control of its bowels and had lost weight over several months.

“He mentioned the dog was ruining his expensive carpets,” Ayesha Smart, prosecuting on behalf of the RSPCA, told Carlisle Crown Court on Friday 20 January.

Graham said he could not take the dog to a vet due to an ongoing dispute. “He had been feeding the dog baby milk and had been putting water in his dry food to fill him up,” said Ms Smart.

Despite the RSPCA offering help, Graham said he no longer wanted the dog which was then visited by a representative of the charity.

“In his words, Keanu was a ‘bag of bones’,” said Ms Smart.

Keanu was extremely underweight — weighing just 9.6kg when he should have been 16kg. His body condition was poor and he received the lowest assessment score of one out of five.

An expert concluded Keanu “was certainly suffering” at the time.

As a result, Graham and his partner, 30 year old Samantha Bagley were prosecuted and admitted causing unnecessary suffering to a protected animal.

The court heard of difficulties in their lives, including childcare responsibilities.

Recorder Tony Hawks said: “How the pair of you thought, with these various difficulties, it was a good idea to introduce into your household a Staffordshire bull terrier I have no idea. I suspect that poor decision making is typical of the way the pair of you live your lives.

“As any normal person understands, taking possession of a dog — or indeed any animal — as a pet is not something that is to be done on a whim. It requires thought, planning and commitment.

“That animal put its trust in the pair of you and you betrayed that trust.”

Graham and Bagley, both of Milton Road, Egremont, were handed six month jail terms which were suspended for 18 months. Graham, a man with 42 previous offences on his criminal record, was also ordered to undergo probation service rehabilitation.

Both defendants were banned from owning or keeping any animal for 10 years.

Keanu has since been taken into foster care in West Cumbria and is now healthy and enjoys going out for walks and playing with toys.

After the case, RSPCA inspector Martyn Fletcher said the charity was always there to help people and their pets.

“The message is that the responsibility of animal ownership if a serious one. When you don’t take that responsibility seriously and don’t seek help when you need it, the consequences can be serious,” said Mr Fletcher.

It was one of the biggest news stories of our time - and it's still not over. So what did Boris Johnson know about Downing Street’s notorious parties? With fresh revelations from our Number 10 sources, in their own words, listen to the inside story...