Raggs - pet dog starved almost to death by cruel couple

Raggs was left to waste away leading RSPCA officers to believe he wouldn't survive. Picture: Ross Parry Agency
Raggs was left to waste away leading RSPCA officers to believe he wouldn't survive. Picture: Ross Parry Agency
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A COUPLE have been sentenced for starving their dog - leaving him just skin and bone and close to death.

Heavily pregnant Nicole Ambler, 20 and her former partner Billy Joe Hartley, 23, have been banned from keeping animals for ten years after their bad treatment of their black and white crossbreed Raggs.

Billy Joe Hartley Picture: Ross Parry Agency

Billy Joe Hartley Picture: Ross Parry Agency

RSPCA officers found the dog in a “devastating” condition in January this year after the pair left him starved and dehydrated - and even worried he would not pull through, a court heard.

Nigel Monaghan, prosecuting, said: “On January 8, the RSPCA attended the defendants address as a result of a telephone call made due to concerns about one of the two dogs at the property.

“The dog (Raggs) was in a terrible state, it had collapsed and had to be put on a drip and it was touch and go whether it would survive.

Mr Monaghan told the court that Raggs’ weight had dropped to just 10.7kg when he was found by the RSCPA.

Nicole Dorothy Ambler arriving for sentencing. Picture: Ross Parry Agency

Nicole Dorothy Ambler arriving for sentencing. Picture: Ross Parry Agency

Calderdale Magistrates Court heard Ambler and Hartley, both of Keighley, had also kept another dog, Mo, at the house, which they had also taken ownership of on October 25, 2014.

Mr Monaghan added: “There is a suggestion if food was put down for them, the dog, Mo, ate the food of the dog, Raggs.

“The defendants however would have seen the dog deteriorate until it collapsed.

As reasonable pet owners they should have seen the dog was losing weight and should have been taken to a vet.”

Giving evidence to the court, RSPCA inspector Natalie Taylor, said: “We received a call regarding a collapsed dog at the property in question. It came through as a high priority case of neglect.

“When I reached the property I knocked on the door and I was met by Nicole who showed me Raggs who was laid on the floor covered in a blue blanket.

“I asked Nicole to remove the blanket and I was shocked at the condition of the dog. I could see the ribs and bones and he was not very responsive, but I knew he needed taking to a vet.

“Nicole said she went shopping the previous day and it was her sister that found him collapsed in the kitchen.

“The dog couldn’t stand up on his own or lift his head. I had to physically wrap him in the blanket and carry him out.

“On looking at the dog, the fact that he couldn’t lift or move his head meant he couldn’t access food or water that was inches from where he was lying.

“As I was carrying him out he was lifeless and was lolling his head out. I didn’t think he would make it.

“He was extremely underweight. I could see all his spine, ribs and hip bones.

He kept throwing his head back and was dehydrated.

“After I dropped Raggs off at the vets I went back to pick up Mo who had been signed over voluntarily.

“Billy Joe signed over the dog and donated all the left over food, toys and leads as well.

“The next day I saw Raggs and he was able to prop his head up but was kept on a drip until January 13.”

Ms Taylor told the court that Mo had also been underweight when she was signed over but otherwise had been “bright and active”.

The vet that cared for Raggs - who was around 12-18 months old at the time - after he was taken by the RSPCA, Dr Lara Clarkson, told the court: “Any responsible member of the public would have known something was wrong.

“If you get to the stage of dehydration where you are unable to lift your head up that is a very obvious sign something is wrong, even for someone who is not medically trained.

“I think he would have been dead by morning if he had not been medically treated. One of my receptionists questioned if he was alive when he first came in he was that lifeless.”

Luckily, after being nursed back to health by workers at the RSPCA, Raggs is back to full health.

Giving evidence to the court, Hartley said the couple had tried to find a vet online, but where unable to find one and when they did manage to track one down he said they were unable to find the emergency out-of-hours number.

He said they had also attempted to give Raggs water through a syringe.

He said: “We were not able to help the dog. When it couldn’t get food and water we did attempt to help it by passing it food and water.

“I accept we could have done more. We did ask a few people about what could be the cause of it but we didn’t see a vet.

Sentencing Hartley to a community order of 150 hours unpaid work, and fining Ambler £200, head of the bench Sue Ellis said: “Given the evidence we find it as a matter of fact that when he (Raggs) was transferred to you he was in a

healthy state and the deterioration in the three months was down to you.”

Hartley was ordered to pay court costs of £200 and a surcharge of £60. Ambler was told to pay £40 in costs and a £20 surcharge.

Both Hartley and Ambler - who were found guilty of three counts of causing unnecessary cruelty to Raggs - were both disqualified from owning, keeping or taking care of any animal for 10 years.