RSPCA: Owner sentenced for neglecting dog so badly her paws fell off

Neglect case that captured the county’s heart

The owner of a poodle so badly neglected that her front paws had dropped off, has been banned from keeping animals for five years at Brighton Magistrates’ court.

Earlier this year RSPCA inspector Tony Woodley received a complaint about the condition of 14-year-old poodle shih-tzu cross-breed Cheeky (since renamed Florence), who was living with her former owner in Brighton.

When Inspector Woodley saw the elderly dog it was clear she was in a terrible state, so the RSPCA rushed her to the vets.

When her matted fur was clipped it was discovered she had lost her front paws through lack of circulation. In addition, her eyes and ears were infected, she was suffering from gastroenteritis and her teeth were so rotten they all had to be removed by the vet.

“This was one of the most shocking cases of long-term neglect I have witnessed in my 17 years as an inspector. As well as her missing paws she had to have more than 1.5kg of matted, encrusted fur removed,” said Inspector Woodley.

“I am satisfied that the sentence reflects the severity of this neglect and pleased that a ban on keeping animals has been handed out. This should prevent any other animal from suffering the way Cheeky did,” he added.

Last month, Derek Goldsmith, aged 64, of Kingfisher Court, Albourne Close in Brighton admitted failing to provide Florence with veterinary care for her severed front paws and failing to get treatment for her severe dental disease.

Yesterday (12 December), in addition to the five-year disqualification, he was given a four-month custodial sentence suspended for 18 months and a community integration order.  In addition he was ordered to pay costs of £2,301.39.  Goldsmith said that he was ashamed and promised to never own another animal again.

Florence’s story captivated the public and people rallied round to help. Alongside the dedication of the vets at Arthur Lodge in Horsham; design and technology students at Collyers College in Horsham were so struck by Florence’s plight that they created a harness on wheels for her.

Luckily once Florence recovered, she was almost immediately rehomed by Karen Branagh – who works for the RSPCA in Southwater, near Horsham.

"I cannot praise the inspector who saved her, or Arthur Lodge, the vets in Horsham who cared for her, enough. They all did an amazing job of bringing Florence back to life, before she could come and start a brand new one with us," said new owner Karen Branagh.

She stressed that taking on an elderly or disabled dog may sound daunting, but it is also incredibly rewarding.

"Florence comes into work with me at the RSPCA almost every day and everyone loves her.  Although she can't walk very well on hard surfaces she is surprisingly fast and agile on soft grass and carpet.  The first time she ran on the grass, my family and I were in tears of delight and joy.  We never ever imagined that she would be capable of doing that.

“Her courage is an inspiration to all of us and she is a fantastic ambassador for the work of the RSPCA!” she said.

The RSPCA takes in thousands of animals a year that have been victims of the most serious neglect and cruelty.  The costs of sending an RSPCA inspector to rescue Florence, two months of specialist veterinary treatment and prosecuting her owner has cost the RSPCA nearly £5,000.

In honour of brave little Florence, the RSPCA has set up the Florence Fund – to help support the rescue, rehabilitation and rehoming of the most severely neglected animals like Florence. To donate to our Florence Fund, please call 0300 123 8181.


Notes to editor:

Interviews and before and after photos of Florence are available from the press office by contacting 0300 123 0244 or emailing