A dog owner who starved a puppy to death today "narrowly" escaped jail, but has been banned form owning animals for four years.

Greg Bell's brindle-staffordshire terrier cross was found by animal welfare inspectors in such poor condition that it had to be euthanised.

The SPCA was tipped off in April by a member of the public concerned about the condition of a distressed and emaciated puppy seen at a flat in the Spreydon area of Christchurch.

Inspectors visited the next day to find the female puppy with its ribs and hips showing, a skin condition, green discharge from the eyes and "depressed demeanour".


A vet found it riddled with mange and anaemia, while suffering from starvation, and a decision was taken to have it put down.

Bell, 25, had earlier pleaded guilty to charges of failing to provide the puppy with proper and sufficient food and veterinary treatment to alleviate unreasonable and unnecessary pain or distress.

At Christchurch District Court, he narrowly avoided a jail sentence.

Judge David Holderness said the dog was found in a "piteous condition".

After looking at photos of the dog, taken by SPCA inspectors before it was put down, the judge noted: "It looks to be a wretched dog, and it's plain that it's been in that condition for some time."

A necropsy found a total loss of internal fat.

The SPCA said the animal would have suffered undue stress, suffering and pain.

Bell told SPCA inspectors he couldn't afford to take the sickly pooch to a vet and became angry when they came to take the dog away.

Defence counsel Craig Fletcher said Bell had been trying to feed it dog biscuits, but other dogs it was living with were eating them.

When it got very thin, a limited family income meant he couldn't take it to the vet, he said.

"This, frankly, is a serious case of its type," Judge Holderness said.

But "by a narrow margin", he decided to sentence Bell to 14 weeks of community detention, with a 7pm to 6am curfew, and 120 hours of community work.

Bell was ordered to pay $319.90 in reparation to the SPCA, and $1200 toward their legal costs. He has been disqualified from owning any animals for four years.