Real Life

We found her starving, flea-ridden and shaking

Each year, thousands of animals are mistreated and abandoned and, more often than not, it’s happening in your neighbours’ backyard. So what do you do when you see it in real life?

By Natalie Babic
When I was told I was going to visit the home of a “skinny” dog, I didn’t know what to expect. Would the dog be ok? What would the owners be like? Would the house be the ugliest, trashiest on the block?
I mean, if someone can’t look after a dog, how can they look after themselves?
The house was in the Western Suburbs of Sydney; it was a quiet, well-kept street with big impressive houses lined up next to each other. The letter boxes all looked the same and despite the temperature already hitting 30 degrees at just 10 o’clock in the morning, the grass was incredibly green. No dry patches to be seen.
The house we were visiting was clean, neat and simple: it was painted blue with a garden gnome welcoming me on the doorstep.
However, their side fence was falling apart and the grass was unkempt. It was apparent their respect for their house did not transfer to the yard where their animals were kept.
I was visiting the house with an Animal Inspector named Ian who works at the Animal Welfare League – he deals with reports of animal cruelty within the Sydney region.
Ian knocked on the door but as there was no response, we let ourselves into the backyard to check-out the dog.
And really, she was hard to miss.
Never in my life had I seen a dog look so ill. The gorgeous honey-coloured pup had the skinniest abdomen I had ever seen. Her ribs were visible, the skin was hanging off her frail body and she was flea-ridden.
The poor thing was in a state no animal should ever be in.
Yet, despite her horrible condition, she was ecstatic to see me and Ian. Immediately, she ran up to us, sniffing us out.
Another dog was also kept in the same yard but in a separate area. He was clearly happy and healthy, with a fully filled bowl of water and food sitting in front of him.
And we could hear yapping from inside the house – there was obviously a third dog inside.
The owner clearly had double standards for his pets.
“We’re going to need to seize this dog,” said Ian.
“This dog” - who I affectionately referred to as “Gorgeous” all day - was just one of the thousands of animals rescued from homes in NSW by the Animal Welfare League (AWL) each year.
Natalie with "Gorgeous"
Inspectors, like Ian, are the people you can call when you’re worried about an animal’s welfare - be it a skinny dog, birds being kept in too-small cages or a pet shop that may be mistreating the animals.
All calls are treated seriously and there are serious fines for the mistreatment of animals. Last year alone, AWL Inspectors attended to over 500 reports of animal cruelty in NSW.
If you feel that:
-An animal is being neglected and
-You’re concerned for the welfare of the animal or
-You have witnessed an act of cruelty being committed
you can submit a cruelty report or call your local Animal Welfare League.
As with the case of Gorgeous, a neighbour had left an anonymous call on the Inspectors phone, saying they had noticed the dog was skinny. And in doing so, they may have saved her life.
After we removed Gorgeous from her home, we took her back to the AWL’s shelter in Kemps Creek. Here, they have a veterinary clinic where she was attended to by the team of vets who are currently running blood work to find out if there are any other medical issues.
“Things can only get better for her from here,” Ian told me.
And it’s true – Gorgeous’ life can only get better from this point onwards.
It’s somewhat reassuring to know that even if you do see an animal that’s been mistreated, by reporting it, it can make a world of difference for their life.

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