Barney Needs A New Home

Barney Needs A New Home

Barney, a famous Dalmatian in England, is ready to find a new home after his owner pled guilty to animal cruelty charges in English court.  His former owner, John Green, has been banned from keeping dogs for the next 10 years.

The RSPCA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) confiscated Barney from Green's home in June.  Green had been feeding Barney a steady diet of junk food, and the lethally obese dog had topped out at a staggering 154 pounds.  The RSPCA put Barney in foster care while pressing charges against his owner.  With the benefit of a restricted diet and plenty of exercise, Barney has lost 66 pounds, and is finally down to a weight considered normal for his breed.

The British court prosecuted Green after hearing his testimony about the diet he fed to Barney, which included potato chips, French fries, and chocolate.  (Chocolate is, of course, toxic to dogs, and thus doubly bad.)  Green pled guilty to charges of "excessive cruelty" for having allowed Barney to get so grossly overweight.  

Before confiscating Barney, the RSPCA issued a warning to Green that he needed to change the dog's diet and shed a few pounds.  Although Green did not intend to harm the dog, thinking of Barney as more of a human friend than a pet, he still faced charges of cruelty.  The RSPCA inspector testified that "his condition would have caused him huge discomfort, put pressure on his joints, and could potentially have shortened his life."

In addition to being banned from owning dogs, Green will have to perform 200 hours of community volunteer service.  

Dog obesity has become a big problem in the Western world.  The BBC also reported on a recent press release by an animal welfare agency in Scotland, which reports that dog obesity rates may be as high as 70% in that country.  Here in America, an estimated 44% of dogs and 57% of cats are overweight, according to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention.

Animal cruelty laws are different here in the states versus in England, of course.  But I wonder how long it will be before animal welfare agencies begin to confiscate pets which are unusually obese?  A few extra pounds on your Labrador is one thing, but Barney was twice the weight he should have been.  

A pet's weight unquestionably affects their quality of life, lifespan, and overall health.  But I think most people with overweight pets would be disturbed to hear that they could face animal cruelty charges for the problem.  An even higher percentage of senior animals is considered obese, which is an even more serious issue, given the risk of joint issues, the exacerbation of arthritis, the pressure it puts on the animal's kidneys and liver, and more.

One interesting thing that the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention found during its 2008 survey is that pet owners have a very realistic assessment of their pet's physical condition.  Most pet owners accurately estimated their pet's weight, and agreed with the vet's assessment that their pet was obese.  The message is clear: if you know your pet is obese, you're right!