The RSPCA has urged people to seek help if they are experiencing difficulties looking after their pets after a woman from Barrow said she couldn’t afford to take her starved puppy to a vet.

Stephanie Sweeney, 37, was prosecuted by the RSPCA after the body of the six-month-old Staffordshire bull terrier type dog called Ariel had been found in the Ormsgill area in May last year. 

The puppy, who weighed 7 kg (15.4 pounds), had deteriorated over several weeks and was described by a vet as ‘emaciated.’

At a sentencing hearing before magistrates in Barrow, Sweeney was given a 12 week custodial sentence, suspended for 12 months, and disqualified from keeping animals indefinitely after pleading guilty to one offence contrary to the Animal Welfare Act 2006 at an earlier hearing.    

The court was told that RSPCA Inspector Will Lamping had visited her house in White House Close, Barrow, on 25 May last year after Ariel had been found - deceased - by a member of the public earlier that week and her body taken to a vet. 

Sweeney told the inspector that Ariel belonged to her. She said she had not starved her pet and that the dog had been ‘sick for several weeks’ before she left her body in a place she ‘liked to go.’  

Later that day Inspector Lamping visited the veterinary surgery where Ariel had been taken by the finder. In written evidence to the court he said: “The dog was a black Staffordshire bull terrier type dog. The animal was deceased and in a frozen state, having been kept inside a bag in a freezer that I photographed before opening. 

“Examination was difficult due to the frozen state of the body, so I was unable to determine the sex of the dog. It was in very poor body condition, with its spine and other bones clearly visible. The dog’s eyes were sunken and white eggs/maggots were round the sockets. The dog was scanned for a microchip but none was found. The body was weighed inside the bag at 7kg.”

The Mail has decided not to publish the distressing pictures sent by the RSPCA.

A post mortem report was carried out which showed that Ariel had no body fat. A vet who gave written evidence in the case said this “main concerning finding” led her to believe that emaciation contributed to, or even caused, the death of the dog and she had suffered prior to her demise. 

When interviewed by the RSPCA about what had happened, Sweeney said Ariel had stopped eating her food but there seemed to be no obvious reason for this. She said she didn’t seek any veterinary help and continued to watch her pet deteriorate and lose weight for ‘about four or five weeks’.

She said Ariel had shown no outward signs of illness and she didn’t believe she was suffering. No veterinary help had been sought at any time, primarily due to concerns about the cost, which Sweeney said she couldn’t afford. 

She stated there was no-one she could have asked for help and she wasn’t aware that the RSPCA or similar welfare organisations could have provided financial assistance.

Sweeney, will not be able to contest the ban for ten years, was of previous good character and had shown significant remorse over the death of the dog and the circumstances surrounding it, the court was told.

Speaking after the case Inspector Lamping said: “This was a desperately sad case involving a very young dog who had been left to waste away over several weeks. We’d urge people who may be experiencing financial difficulties or other issues to take the responsible course of action and reach out to vets, local rescues and animal welfare organisations so they can get the appropriate help and support for their pets.”