A COUPLE jailed for neglecting their pet dogs claim they kept the pets outside because they were told by the vet that they had worms.

But Chester Magistrates Court heard that the dogs Fudge and Daisy had not visited the vets since the previous year.

Prosecuting on behalf of the RSPCA, Christopher Murphy told the court an inspector from the animal welfare charity went round to the house of Tracy and Sean Johnson, of Pooltown Road, Ellesmere Port, on May 23 last year after receiving an anonymous complaint.

On arrival, she noticed the family had four dogs, two of which appeared to live inside the house and the other two, Daisy and Fudge, confined to the back yard.

She noted that although the dogs who lived inside the house appeared to be in ‘normal condition’, Daisy and Fudge both appeared ‘emaciated and dehydrated’, with many bones visible, patches of fur missing and open sores on their skin.

There was no bedding provided, the yard was littered with ‘excessive faeces’ and though the dogs had access to dry dog food, they had no water.

Mr Murphy told the court the dogs primarily belonged to Mrs Johnson, 26, who said her husband, 22, often helped to clean and walk them.

She said they had taken the dogs to the vets months earlier and were given tablets for worming because of their physical condition, although later tests showed there was no evidence of worms in either of the pets.

When RSPCA investigators took Daisy and Fudge into custody, along with the couple’s other dogs who it was feared could also be in danger, both dogs showed ‘voracious appetites’ and gained a ‘significant amount of weight’ after just five days.

Further examination revealed they had suffered poor muscle, fur loss, chronic ulceration and alopecia, consistent with poor housing and no bedding.

There was clearly no other reason found for their emaciation and they appeared to have been suffering for at least two-three months, Mr Murphy said.

Scott McCrimmon, defending, said the couple, had been ‘fully co-operative’ with the RSPCA and police, and said they believed the dogs were losing weight because of worms.

He suggested their veterinary advice had been ‘misguided’ and admitted they should have taken the dogs for a re-examination when they showed no signs of improvement.

“They had done their level best to separate and prevent any spread of what they believed to be worms,” he said.

“Both have been long-term pet owners for years and Mrs Johnson is someone who has always taken good care of her animals.”

Magistrates sentenced the pair to 12 weeks each in custody, with Mrs Johnson ordered to serve an extra nine weeks for breach of a suspended sentence relating to another case.

All their other pets have been rehomed.

RSPCA inspector Leanne Cragg said: “This was a very serious case of neglect in which two dogs were caused to suffer over a prolonged period of time.

“I’m grateful the magistrates have sentenced accordingly; it shows these sort of offences are taken seriously by the courts and that magistrates take a dim view on animal cruelty.

“Mr and Mrs Johnson had previously been given advice and then a warning regarding the dogs’ weight and living conditions but an investigation was started when the dogs condition deteriorated.”