A DOG starved to death after being left alone in a squalid house for more than a month, a court heard.
An RSPCA inspector made the grim discovery of Staffordshire bull terrier Piggles’ maggot-infested body after her owner, Richard Heys, aged 37, left her at his home in Sindsley Grove, Great Lever.
The case was described by chairman of the bench Gillian Knowles as “the most despicable treatment of an animal” she had seen in her 19 years as a magistrate.
Heys was given a suspended jail sentence and has been banned from keeping animals for life.
Tony Stock, prosecuting, said: “The inspector attended on April 18, 2012, having received a telephone call on behalf of the landlord that a dead dog had been found inside the property.
“When she entered the property she described it as being squalid, rubbish-cluttered and with dog faeces all over the place.
“The inspector described it as a pitiful sight. The body was recovered with the landlord’s permission. There was a very strong, pungent smell. Officers performed that task wearing masks.”
Piggles, who was just under two years old, was said to have a skeletal frame and was found dead, curled up on the sofa.
Attempts were made to track down Heys but he could not be traced until September last year.
An RSCPA inspector said Heys’ remorse and regret about leaving the dog, which he expressed when questioned, were genuine.
Bolton Magistrates Court heard Heys, now of Talbot Street in Rishton, Blackburn, had not planned to leave the home permanently but had been involved in a crash on his way to visit a friend in Blackburn.
Peter Leather, defending, said Heys’ motorbike had been struck by a car in a hit-and-run. He was not seriously injured but remained at his friend’s home and started drinking.
Heys’ father and grandfather both died in 2011 and he suffered from severe depression as a result of their deaths, the court heard.
His actions were said to be a combination of his ill health due to the crash, his depression and his increasing intake of alcohol.
Mr Leather said: “Very sadly his mind did not concentrate on the fact he had left the dog at home. He did not intend for the events to happen.”
Heys, who was previously of good character, now works full-time and lives with his partner.
Sentencing, Ms Knowles said: “I have been on this bench for 19 years this year and in that time I have never seen such despicable treatment of an animal.
“This prolonged neglect resulted in the death of the dog in such squalid conditions. This obviously passes the custody threshold.”
Heys admitted to causing unnecessary suffering to the dog between March 18 and April 18, 2012.
He was sentenced to 18 weeks in prison suspended for 12 months. He was ordered to complete 200 hours of unpaid work and pay court costs of £1,350.
He was banned from owning animals for life. Ms Knowles gave him one week for his partner, who he lives with, to rehome her two dogs.
RSPCA Inspector Vicki McDonald, speaking after the case, said: “I am pleased with the result. It goes to show how seriously these offences are taken.
“These were difficult and upsetting circumstances and hopefully lessons have been learned. If you do find yourself in these circumstances or in difficulty please call the RSPCA who will help.”
People who need assistance caring for animals can call the RSPCA on 0300 1234 999.