A WOMAN who starved two dogs to death in her greenhouse has escaped spending any time behind bars - but is banned from owning another dog for life.
After pleading guilty at the Ipswich Magistrates Court to four counts of animal neglect yesterday, Debra Louise Pridmore, 43, was sentenced to a two month's prison to be suspended for 18 months.
The court was told that on Monday, June 17 last year the RSPCA attended Pridmore's Ebbw Vale home where they found the bodies of two dogs that had starved to death inside a six metre by three metre greenhouse.
A post mortem examination by a vet found that the female mixed breed dog was believed to have died 36 hours prior to discovery, while the white male Staffordshire bull terrier was believed to have died 24 hours before. Both dogs were suffering from severe hookworm infections.
The inspectors also found a bowl of scraps, containing mostly rice and bones, which the court heard was put there after the dogs died.
RSPCA barrister Bernard Catt said Pridmore's actions were "pure callousness".
The examination found no evidence they had eaten recently, with neither dog having anything inside their stomachs.
The court heard witnesses had never seen the dogs outside the greenhouse, a fact the unrepresented Pridmore disputed, and had been quiet for five days despite previously barking and howling regularly.
When she was initially interviewed by RSPCA inspectors the court heard Pridmore, a mother of two and on a carer's pension, told them the dogs had been alive when she left the food there but admitted to not having taken them to the vet.
"I don't know what happened to them, all I know is that they were healthy and they were happy I fed them that morning," documents tendered to the court said.
"I'm not a millionaire, I'm not rich, I can't afford vets and sh-t so nuh I didn't take them to a vet because I couldn't afford it."
Mr Catt said Pridmore's statements about the dogs being healthy when she fed them was a lie and showed "callous contempt" for the animals.
"She simply put the dogs in a pen to die," he said.
The RSPCA called for the two-month suspended sentence, telling the court the equivalent fine for the offence would be over $10,000 which Pridmore would not be able to pay.
Magistrate Donna McCallum, who wiped away a tear during the hearing, said Pridmore had a duty of care to the dogs which she had breached. "Animals are as vulnerable as children," she said.
Ms McCallum said she knew suspended sentences were "not always met with public approbation" but were appropriate and could be activated by something as minor as avoiding a train fare.
RSPCA Queensland spokesman Michael Beatty said the organisation was pleased Ms McCallum had agreed with their submissions.
"Looking at past precedents this has been a good result," said. "Although she will not serve any time in prison, it does show that the magistrate took the matter seriously and if she commits any offence in the next 18 months she will probably go to jail."