Couple who allowed elderly labrador to fade away banned from keeping animals

A Gloucestershire couple who failed to take action when their elderly dog’s weight plummeted have been banned from keeping animals for 10 years following a prosecution by the RSPCA.

Kirsty Gerlach and Matthew Gerlach both of Kingsdown, Dursley, pleaded guilty to one offence under the Animal Welfare Act 2006.

The court heard how an RSPCA inspector making a follow-up welfare check at the Gerlach’s home discovered that Marley, a black labrador cross, was very underweight and weak. On a previous visit he told Kirsty Gerlach to seek vet help if the 13-year-old’s health took a turn for the worse.

The couple appeared for sentencing at Cheltenham Magistrates’ Court on November 2 where they both received 10-year disqualification orders and were placed under 12-month community orders.

As a condition of her order, Kirsty Gerlach has to complete 20 rehabilitation activity days (RAR), while magistrates also fined her £40. Matthew Gerlach was told to complete 15 RAR days and 100 hours of unpaid work.

RSPCA inspector Richard Carr attended the couple’s home on December 12 last year after a member of the public contacted the animal charity with concerns about Marley.

Kirsty Gerlach told the inspector she was giving Marley joint supplements because of his age. The inspector offered her guidance on how to care for elderly dogs and advised her the dog would need to see a vet if he became weak or developed mobility issues.

Following further concerns that had been raised for the dog, the inspector returned three months later with a council animal welfare officer. He found Marley in a dog crate in the kitchen and his physical condition had deteriorated, while he was also covered in his own excrement.

In a statement presented to the court, inspector Carr said: “Marley’s hips and ribs were easily visible and he was lethargic and seemed reluctant to walk. The owner said he had lost control of his bowels.”

Kirsty Gerlach agreed to let the inspector take Marley to a vets where he had to be carried into the premises by the council officer because he was so unwell. The vet decided the kindest thing to do was to put the dog to sleep to end his suffering.

The vet who examined him said that Marley was extremely underweight with a body condition score of two out of nine. She said in her expert report she was confident that the dog’s weight loss was caused either by an underlying condition for which the owners should have sought treatment for or him being starved for a period of longer than four weeks.

In mitigation, the court heard that the couple claimed they “would have taken the dog to a vets if they had been told to”.

Both defendants were told to pay costs of £400 and a victim surcharge of £114.