Gloucestershire couple banned from keeping animals after cruel treatment of their dog
A couple from Gloucestershire have been banned from keeping animals for a decade after their dog Marley was found extremely underweight and covered in his own excrement during an RSPCA welfare check. Kirsty and Matthew Gerlach, of Kingsdown, Dursley, admitted to one offence under the Animal Welfare Act 2006.
The RSPCA conducted two welfare checks, one in December 2022 and one three months later, after a member of the public raised concerns about Marley's condition. The inspector recommended to Kirsty Gerlach to seek medical help if the 13-year-old dog's health grew worse. On the follow-up check-in Marley, a black labrador cross, was found lethargic and reluctant to walk, as well as extremely underweight. A vet said the kindest option would be to put Marley to sleep.
The pair appeared at Cheltenham Magistrates Court for sentencing on November 2, where they were both given 10-year disqualification orders and were placed under 12-month community orders. As a condition of her order, Kirsty Gerlach, 41, has to complete 20 rehabilitation activity days (RAR), while magistrates also fined her £40. Matthew Gerlach, 43, was told to complete 15 RAR days and 100 hours of unpaid work.
RSPCA inspector Richard Carr initially visited the couple's home on December 12 last year, when a member of the public contacted the animal charity with concerns about Marley. Kirsty Gerlach told Mr Carr she was giving Marley joint supplements because of his age. The inspector offered guidance on caring for elderly dogs and recommended taking Marley to a vet if he grew weak or developed mobility issues.
More concerns were raised about Marley's condition and Mr Carr returned three months later with a council animal welfare officer. He found Marley's physical condition had deteriorated and he was kept in a dog crate in the kitchen, 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 the vet. He had to be carried off the premises by the council officer because he was so unwell.
The vet said the kindest option was to put Marley to sleep to end his suffering. The vet assessing Marley said he was extremely underweight, with a body condition score - a tool vets use to evaluate animal's body condition and nutrition status - was two. The ideal is five, according to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention.
She added in her expert report she was confident Marley's weight loss was caused either by an underlying condition, for which the owners should have sought treatment, 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”. The pair were convicted of:
Between 1st January 2023 and 1st March 2023 at Kingsdown, Dursley, Gloucestershire you did not take such steps as were reasonable in all the circumstances to ensure that the needs of an animal namely a black Labrador type dog known as Marley for which you were responsible, were met to the extent required by good practice in that you failed to protect the animal from pain, suffering and disease, contrary to Section 9(1) of the Animal Welfare Act 2006.
Both defendants were told to pay costs of £400 and a victim surcharge of £114.