Derbyshire woman banned from keeping animals after 'walking skeleton' dog was left locked in house for two months

A Derbyshire woman has been banned from keeping animals after leaving a dog to starve for two months, causing her to drop to just a third of her normal body weight.

Tuesday, 23rd March 2021, 3:45 pm
Updated Tuesday, 23rd March 2021, 3:59 pm

The Husky-type cross dog, which was called Yogi, was so emaciated that the RSPCA inspector who rescued her said she was the thinnest dog she had seen alive.

Described as a ‘walking skeleton’, Yogi weighed just 8.75kg when rescued but a dog of that breed would normally weigh around 30kg.

Ayla Gilchrist, 23, of Egreaves Avenue, Heanor, pleaded guilty to three animal welfare offences after admitting she left Yogi alone with no food.

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She was banned from keeping animals indefinitely and given an eight-week sentence, suspended for 12 months for each offence, at Derby Magistrates’ Court.

During the hearing on March 8, the court heard how a housing officer attending the address called the RSPCA after seeing a very underweight dog in the house.

Inspector Rachel Leafe, from the RSPCA, visited the property on January 6 last year and could see the weak dog through the window in the rubbish-strewn house which had dirty nappies, litter and dog faeces covering the floors.

Yogi, now called Honey, was described as a 'walking skeleton' when rescued by the RSPCA

In a statement she said: “She was walking but looked very weak and unsteady on her legs. I could visibly see, despite the thick fur, that the dog was grossly underweight. The outline of every rib could be seen through the fur, as could the spine and hip bones. The dog’s face was sunken in.

“Her stomach was so sucked in that it looked like somebody could easily wrap their hands around her waist. I could not see any food or water. I was very concerned that if the dog was to be left any longer she may not survive.”

Rachel accessed the property with help from Derbyshire Police and, by climbing onto a ledge through an open window, was able to safely lift the dog free as she was too weak to jump on the windowsill.

“I was so shocked at how light the dog was to pick up. It just felt like picking up an empty rucksack. I could feel her breast bone which was very sharp and prominent and there was no fat or muscle surrounding her body at all,” she said.

Honey was taken to the RSPCA Chesterfield and North Derbyshire where she was rehabilitated and has been transformed into a healthy and loving dog

"She looked like a walking skeleton and I had never felt a dog this thin that was still alive in all my life and career as an RSPCA Inspector.”

Rachel rushed the dog for emergency veterinary treatment as she was underweight, dehydrated and appeared confused and weak.

A scan of the dog’s microchip revealed her name to be Yogi, that she was aged five, and that she belonged to Gilchrist and was registered at the address where she was found.

Yogi, now called Honey, weighed just 8.75kg when rescued

Rachel was able to trace Gilchrist who allowed her access to the property where Yogi was found so she could make further investigations.

During her search, she found no available food and water for the pet but came across empty dog food tins wrappers.

Indications also showed that Yogi had been drinking water from the toilet bowl – which was left dry – and had eaten tubes of toothpaste to help stay alive.

A vet who examined Yogi said: “The only reason she perhaps stayed alive as long as she did was because she was able to access the water in a downstairs toilet. The dog was caused an unimaginable degree of suffering for a period of at least two months.”

After emergency treatment Yogi, who had been renamed Honey because of her sweet nature and fur colouring, was taken to the RSPCA Chesterfield and North Derbyshire for rehabilitation.

She is now with new owners Linda Merrill, 57, and husband John, 58, at their home in Staveley and they have kept her name as Honey.

Linda said Honey now enjoys getting plenty of love and attention and adores people - especially their grandchild Amelia.

She said: “We have always had rescue dogs and I was on the look-out for one as we had lost our previous dog a year before. I saw her on the RSPCA branch website and fell for her then.

“When I told my husband he said we should go and see her and when we did we felt she was so lovely that we adopted her exactly a year ago this week.

“She loves plenty of fuss and attention and she is so spoiled. She even has her own sette where she looks out of the window and likes to watch the neighbours and they also like to see Honey.

“I am so glad the RSPCA were able to rescue and rehabilitate her and she is such a lovely girl - they did a great job.”

Gilchrist was also ordered to pay £200 costs and a victim surcharge of £128.

In mitigation the court was told Gilchrist had left the property and was worried about returning.

A message from Phil Bramley, Derbyshire Times Editor

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