#TheList Luke Butler, born 20/09/1995, of 23 Mayfield Park South, Fishponds, Bristol BS16 3NF, girlfriend Rebecca Whitlow, born c. 2000, and her mother Claire Poore, born c. 1980, both of Speedwell Avenue, St George, Bristol BS5 8DN – left a dog in severe pain with multiple health problems
Butler, Whitlow and Poore pleaded guilty to two charges of neglect in relation to six-year-old Staffy Hugo who was in such poor physical condition he had to be put to sleep.
The dog had the worst case of fleas a vet had ever seen, was blinded in one eye and could barely stand. His ribs were very prominent and he scored just three out of nine on the vet’s body health count.
The judge, Lynne Matthews, described the actions of Butler, Whitlow and Poore as ‘staggering’.
The court heard that Butler bought the dog, but was unable to keep him at the home he shares with his mother as she has cats and other animals.
So instead, Hugo lived at his girlfriend Rebecca Whitlow’s home, even though her mum Claire Poore – a mother-of-five – was not keen.
The court heard that in late July 2019, a couple who were friends of the family offered to take Hugo out for a walk, being aware that he was rarely walked (Butler, Whitlow and Poore claimed they didn’t have time to walk him).
The friends arrived in a car to take Hugo on a trip to Brean Sands beach, on July 27, 2019, and both Poore and Whitlow were at home with the dog.
“When Claire Poore brought out Hugo, he was screaming with pain,” said Lindi Meyer, prosecuting for the RSPCA.
“He was barely walking, hopping along and dragging his back legs. His left eye was closed up completely and covered in a discharge, and his coat was clearly infested with fleas,” she added.
The friends told Poore that the dog needed urgent treatment, and when neither she nor Whitlow said they would take him to the vets, they called the PDSA charity and took him in.
Ms Meyer said the PDSA vet examined Hugo and found he had minimal body fat, and was a three out of nine on the body condition score.
“He was reluctant to walk, screaming in pain. He was ‘knuckling’, which is a sign of injury, and both hind legs were being dragged,” she said.
“Hugo’s condition was severe. He had the worst flea infestation the vet had ever seen,” she added.
The court was told that after a week, Butler and the vet agreed that Hugo had to be put down.
Butler, Whitlow and Poore agreed they were jointly responsible for the dog, and all three pleaded guilty to two counts of neglect – that they caused Hugo unnecessary suffering by failing to seek prompt veterinary treatment, and a second charge that they did not take steps to ensure the needs of an animal were met.
The court heard that all three acknowledged their failure to look after Hugo. Defending, Robyn Rowland said Hugo’s condition worsened in just one week – a statement challenged by the District Judge, who pointed to the very low body condition score as evidence that the neglect was prolonged.
“Mr Butler acknowledges that he didn’t check on the animal as much as he should,” said Mr Rowland.
“He is incredibly remorseful, as they all are. He was someone who generally cares for animals.
“This was not a case of someone buying an animal and then deliberately setting out to mistreat or neglect it,” he added.
“This has been a stark learning curve for him, as it has for all of them. Little is to be gained by sending this man, or any of them, into custody,” said Mr Rowland.
“Miss Whitlow was just 18 at the time, and was a young and naive woman. She didn’t understand the difficulty in looking after an animal – it was a lack of learning and a lack of knowledge.
“Miss Poore has five children, including a two-year-old, and having the dog in her home was perhaps not her first choice. She was tearful when I met her earlier, and she can’t quite believe the situation she finds herself in,” he added.
District Judge Lynne Matthews slammed the three for their actions – or inaction.
She told them: “It’s said you loved that dog but didn’t look after it. I say you didn’t look after the dog and the dog has lost its life,” the judge said.
“If you are not in a position to look after a dog, don’t have a dog.
“You three were not up to it. I don’t take the view you were malicious and I think you were all incompetent, too busy with other things and this poor dog suffered as a result,” she added.
“If this was a child, and a child was screaming in pain, attention would be given immediately. It was obvious this dog was in extreme pain and to turn a blind eye – this is a higher culpability and greater harm,” she said.
Sentencing the trio, District Judge Matthews gave Poore a lesser sentence, and said she was less culpable for the dog’s plight.
She slammed Whitlow for not taking Hugo to the vet, or even accompanying him when their friends said they would.
“Even when it was convenient for friends to take Hugo to the vets, you still didn’t go – that’s quite staggering,” said District Judge Matthews.
She told Butler and Whitlow they were the dog’s owners and had a duty to act.
Poore – 12-month community order of 100 hours of community service. Banned from keeping dogs for five years.
Butler and Whitlow – ten-week prison sentence, suspended for 12 months. Ordered to do 300 hours’ community service work. Banned from keeping any animals for five years.