Couple failed to get vet’s help for sick dog

Jan and Paul McFarlane, who were convicted of animal cruelty at Hartlepool Magistrates' Court.

Jan and Paul McFarlane, who were convicted of animal cruelty at Hartlepool Magistrates' Court.

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A COUPLE who endured 18 months of misery in which their son took his own life have narrowly avoided jail for letting their pet dog suffer sickening injuries.

Paul and Janice McFarlane’s pet West Highland terrier Jamie had to be put down after the couple failed to seek veterinary treatment for a 3in growth on its neck and an infected eye and ears.

Hartlepool magistrates sentenced the pair to nine weeks in prison, suspended for 12 months, after the court heard how 14-year-old Jamie had been subject to a “prolonged period of neglect”.

The couple told the Mail the case was just one element of a “horrendous” 18 months which had seen their son Christopher, 28, take his own life, Janice McFarlane diagnosed with skin cancer and problems with “harassment” from former neighbours.

Prosecutor John Ellwood said the suffering caused was “substantial and prolonged” and resulted in the dog becoming emaciated. In the RSPCA’s care, the dog put on weight and became well.

But Mr Ellwood said because his immune system had been compromised, Jamie succumbed to infections and had to be put down. The court was told an RSPCA officer found the dog at the couple’s home on March 8 last year.

It was emaciated, appeared blind, its ears were infected and it had a large growth on its neck which was infected and weeping pus.

The dog was taken to vet Micaela Wright, who said the tumour may have affected the whole of the dog’s system.

Mr Ellwood said the vet estimates the mass had been infected, causing the dog pain for at least four weeks, or possibly longer.

“The suffering could have been alleviated by seeking veterinary treatment,” he added. “But the defendants had it so long that the mass needed to be surgically removed.”

The court heard the dog was also probably suffering from dry eye for at least a year and a severe ear infection for at least eight weeks. Both could have been easily treated if caught early.

Paul McFarlane, 51, and Janice McFarlane, 49, of Warren Road, Hartlepool, each admitted three counts of causing unnecessary suffering to an animal between February 1 and March 8 last year. Adrian Morris, mitigating, said: “The pleas to the case are on the basis that both were aware of a worsening problem with their dog.

“Both accepted the level of care that should have been afforded to Jamie needed to be higher.”

He said the McFarlanes took Jamie to the PDSA charity when they first noticed his lump and were given advice about having it removed.

But plans for surgery were disrupted when Janice McFarlane was diagnosed with skin cancer in January last year and following problems in relation to their son, Christopher.

Mr Morris said the couple treated the dog’s eye and ears themselves and thought the conditions were under control.

He added the couple were also forced to move because of harassment from a former neighbour.

In addition to the suspended sentence, the couple must also each pay £250 towards costs. They escaped a ban from keeping animals after the court heard their other pets were well cared-for.

The couple appeared in the Mail in the mid-1990s fronting the Families Against Bullying (FAB) campaign after Christopher, then 13, suffered at the hands of tormentors for three years.