The issue of dementia sufferers being unintentionally cruel to their animals was highlighted this week by the tragic story of Rufus the pony – who suffered terrible neglect at the hands of his ill owner.
Workers from Pet Samaritans Animal Sanctuary, in Old Whittington, were alerted to Rufus’ plight when social services stepped-in to care for his owner, who was struck down with dementia.
Daphne Shepherd, team leader at the sanctuary, said: “When we first went to see Rufus we cried.
“He’d been shut in a back garden stable for years.
“He was knee-deep in muck, he could barely move and he was in a terrible state. His hooves were badly overgrown, his teeth also.
“Rufus was very thin although he had a big pot belly, this was due to worms.
“He couldn’t even see over the door, there had been no companionship for him since his owner became ill.”
Daphne said that staff realised that this wasn’t deliberate neglect.
She said: “His owner loved him but could no longer care for him and no one realised how bad his situation had become.”
While appointments had been made with the vet and blacksmith, the poorly owner then denied them access.
Luckily the story doesn’t end badly. Rufus is now at the sanctuary and is on the long road to recovery.
Daphne said: “He is a lovely little pony who is affectionate and whinnies to us every time he sees us.
“We hope that he will one day be recovered enough to go out in the fields with the rest of the ponies.”
She added: “Over the past few months we’ve had other pets brought in who have been badly neglected by their dementia suffering owners.
“When people live alone and relatives are far away, it’s hard for anyone inexperienced to recognise that the pet is being neglected.
“We’d like regular checks to made on the pets of dementia sufferers, by a vet would be best.
“This doesn’t just apply to dementia sufferers but to any pet owner whose mental faculties are impaired.”
If you are concerned about an animal owner with dementia – or any other illness – contact the sanctuary on 01246 455777 or visit www.petsamaritans.co.uk.