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Border Collie Rescue - On Line - Natalia - RSPCA Cruelty Case
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This video is the story of Natalia, a Border Collie seized by the RSPCA after a tip off and referred to BCR for re-habilitation
 
Border Collie Rescue took Natalia in from the RSPCA in February 2008. This Border Collie had been seized by the RSPCA, along with another dog, after a tip off.
The husband and wife who confined their two pet dogs to the kitchen for two years, with one running round in circles for so long it wore a groove in the lino, have been banned for life from keeping animals.  Magistrates at Harrogate heard how the couple caused unnecessary suffering to Charmaine, a tan coloured Dobermann who was starved to the point of death and neglected Natalia, a Border collie which, as well as constant circling, had tried to claw her way through the kitchen door to freedom.
Each pleaded guilty to four charges brought by the RSPCA under the 2006 Animal Welfare Act.
They admitted two counts of causing unnecessary suffering to Charmaine and two charges of failing to ensure the needs of both dogs were met to the extent that they exhibited normal behaviour patterns. Prosecutor Stuart Berry said RSPCA Inspector Mike Pugh went to the couple's home and found Charmaine, who was sunken-eyed, collapsed and lying on her side in the kitchen with faeces on the floor, to be so emaciated a vet had to put her down. She had been unable to stand without assistance, her spine, ribs and pelvic bones were clearly visible and she had weighed 19.6kilos rather than the norm of 33kilos.
Natalia, the Border Collie, who had been exhibiting abnormal behaviour, constantly running round in a tight circle, had gone to Border Collie Rescue after a week of intensive veterinary care and her behaviour had improved. She had had smelly, scabby sores on her body, was underweight and agoraphobic.
The prosecutor said: ''The floor in the kitchen was worn, simply by the continual passage of the dog round and round in the same circle, indicating that this behaviour had been going on for some time.'' Marks on the door indicated attempts by the animals to claw their way out and the Forresters said they had not been outside for perhaps as long as two years.
Investigators were told that when Natalia was taken out she did not like noise or traffic and pulled on her lead. She got exercise by chasing a ball round the kitchen.
They were told of Charmaine: ''We did all we could. I didn't intentionally want to cause distress. I did my best and in hindsight I wish I could have overcome fear, bitten the bullet and taken her to the vet.''
But the couple had been frightened about her condition and how others, particularly a vet, might react.
In mitigation, the court was told the dogs had been bought seven or eight years ago, Charmaine for 500 and Natalia for 80, as pets for the couple's three children who had all now left home. Both were upset and sorry at what had occurred and added that apart from the kitchen, the rest of the house had been out of bounds to the animals. Both dogs had been ill with diarrhoea for some weeks and the couple chose to treat it by not feeding them. Then each time they tried food the problem recurred. They realised now that they should have got help a lot earlier but believed they would be in trouble if they called in a vet, and so shut their eyes to the problems.
After reading probation reports on the couple the court chairman told them their dogs had suffered substantial harm and distress over a period of time. They were each ordered to do 200 hours of unpaid work and to abide by a 9pm to 6am curfew daily for a month. A lifetime ban on keeping animals was ordered on the couple who will also face a bill of 500 in prosecution costs.
Border Collie Rescue had been asked to provide a statement for the prosecution -

Border Collie bitch, black and white, medium coat, right wall eye, part harlequin face. Standard markings.

Name - NATALIA . D.O.B. 4th August 2000 - now 7.5 years of age. Now fully vaccinated, wormed, frontlined, microchipped.

Natalia arrived, to be boarded at Border Collie Rescue at the above address, on 5th February 2008.

Natalia displayed circling / spinning behaviour particularly found in dogs that have been kept in confined areas over a long period. She was in very poor general condition and was underweight with scald marks on her chest, abdomen and quarters caused by continued contact with urine. Her pads were worn and sore from repetitive circling. She had very little muscle on her hind legs due to lack of exercise.

RSPCA Inspector, Mike Pugh advised us that for a period of approximately two years she had been kept shut in the kitchen of a residential house. She shared this space with a dominant and hostile Doberman dog.As requested by the RSPCA, Border Collie Rescue provided regular care, a balanced diet, water, regular exercise to assist in replacement of muscle mass and administration of medication provided by RSPCA.

Training was also given to curb spontaneous circling behaviour and socialisation in the form of affection and care in a regular daily routine with introduction to new people and dogs under controlled conditions. Further veterinary examination indicated that her teeth and gums were in need of remedial dental treatment. Descaling and the removal of five teeth has helped improve her condition and digestion.

Natalia has immediately responded to care and is now steadily gaining weight and muscle mass and tone. Her wounds, caused by urine burns, are healing under treatment and her pads are also responding rapidly and there are no longer indications of soreness. She has become calmer, less stressed and now seems to be enjoying life. Her spontaneous circling is now easily controlled by verbal intervention and is less easily triggered and less intense.

In our opinion, all the veterinary and behavioural problems Natalia has suffered from could have been avoided by normal care and properly applied animal husbandry practice.


After sentencing Border Collie Rescue was asked by a reporter - "What can we learn from this?" - we replied -

 

The main thing we can learn from this is that it need not ever have happened and need never happen again. The new 2006 Animal Welfare Act now makes the keepers and owners of animal more responsible for their care. It imposes a duty of care on all of us.

There is no excuse to let an animal suffer and action needs to be taken at the first sign of any ailment or problem. There is abundant help from a wide range of charitable organisations who can offer advice, in confidence, and direct help under a wide variety of circumstances.

If you think your animal is sick and cannot afford vets fees, seek assistance from the PDSA. If you have a behavioural problem, seek advice from a charity for the type of animal involved. If your circumstances change and you find it difficult to keep or care for an animal go to a re-homing charity. We are all here to help.

But think ahead, don't leave it too late, don't wait until the last minute or until the situation worsens. No-one will condemn a person for trying to do the right thing for the animals they have charge over, so do the right thing and get assistance. Seeking help is not an admission of failure or guilt, quite the opposite. Failure is doing nothing, hiding the problem and causing suffering.

Prosecution is a last resort, but in circumstances like this, unavoidable.

Don't let it happen to you.


Natalia's recovery

 

Natalia was re-named Tia once in BCR care. It was felt that even her name should be left behind her with the rest of her past and a fresh start made. Much of her early care and rehabilitation is touched on in the video at the top of this page, but that is only a fraction of  a very long period of time which was necessary to bring her out of the conditioning her two years+ of incarceration and neglect had created.


Initially, time was spent concentrating of her physical problems and in getting her to trust and relate to people again. She was covered in small bare patches of skin where urine scalding had caused hair loss. She had ear infections and was underweight with significant muscle loss. Her pads were sore and lacerated from constant circling and scratching at floors and doorways and she had problems keeping food down and digesting it properly and had to be fed small meals several times daily until her stomach had settled and expanded enough to cope with regular quantities. In many respects, these physical matters were easy to remedy and she was back in shape in a couple of months, but until then she had to be isolated from contact with other dogs as our vet thought it unwise to vaccinate her until she was stronger.
Once she had recovered sufficiently, she was microchipped and vaccinated and, a few weeks later, spayed.

 

More serious were her psychological issues. She had been conditioned into a number of compulsive/repetitive problems by her long ordeal, one of which was constant circling, to the point of exhaustion. The other dog that had shared her ordeal had bullied her into a state of fear of other dogs and she was very sound sensitive, loud noises scaring her and even small sounds setting her off into a spinning spasm.
One particular type of sound seemed to cause great excitement followed by rushing in small circles and barking.

Bleeping sound like those made by electric alarm clocks, microwaves, washing machines, etc. would set her off. We surmised that this may have been an association with the microwave in the kitchen 'pinging' to alert the end of its cycle. This would have probably been accompanied by the smell of cooking food which, to a hungry dog, would have been very exciting and frustrating.

 

She had to be taught to eat slowly and she would drink for England, given the opportunity and would empty every water bowl she came across. Eventually she learned that water was always there and she could drink whenever she wanted.

 

It took around 6 months of careful feeding and exercise to turn Tia into a good looking and well muscled dog again. Initially it was walking on a lead, then a long line, then running on a line followed by running free, once we were sure she would recall. When she was fit enough to run without gasping for breath we started doing a little bit of basic agility which helped her concentration, stamina and co-ordination.
Getting her to walk in a straight line was a problem. Fortunately she was fascinated by our sheep and by careful exposure on a long line, with the sheep moving away from her, it was possible to get her to forget her conditioning and follow them without spinning around. You may have noticed this in the video.

Other dogs were a problem to start with. She went a bit stiff and would avert her head and walk away, sometimes hiding, if another dog came near. She was particularly possessive of food if she could see or hear another dog, or was aware there was one in a another room and these occasions were the only ones where she would be assertive, although her preferred remedy was to gulp down as much as she could, as quickly as she could. It was around a year before she started to seek out the company of other dogs rather than avoid them.

 

All in, Tia's recovery took nearly as long as it had taken her previous owners to reduce her to the condition she came to us in and she was not felt to be fit for re-homing until 2010. By that time most of the residue signs of her ordeal had disappeared, but she still had an inclination to spin when she became excited, although this was now a single circle which could be stopped by prediction at the point it started, usually with her looking at you with the expression of 'sorry, don't know what came over me then' on her face. Like many humans with compulsive repetitive disorders, she had become aware that she was doing it.


In 2010 we took in another young lady guest called Jess who took to Tia very quickly, and Tia returned the compliment.

Jess had quite a different background and had been loved and well looked after, but was inclined to be a bit possessive around humans. Many BC's can over-bond with their owners which can cause problems when their owners are absent. We encouraged this friendship as we saw mutual benefit in it for both dogs. Jess needed to relate to dogs and have a constant doggy companion so she would not develop an unhealthy obsession with her next owner in her next home. Tia needed a friend she could relate to and would keep her on the straight and narrow. An opportunity arose to place both dogs in the same home and they have not looked back since.

 

They still keep in touch and we see them from time to time when they visit.

A happy ending for all involved.

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Border Collie Rescue is a UK based charity, working Internationally to Rescue and Re-home Border Collies and Working Sheepdogs and promote a better understanding of the breed and its Welfare.

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