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ASPCA Announces Arrest of Manhattan Woman for Neglecting Pet Poodle

Failure to Provide Proper Grooming Caused Pain, Suffering and Medical Problems
February 8, 2008

NEW YORK, February 8, 2008—Humane Law Enforcement agents of the ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) arrested Manhattan resident Diana Elias on Tuesday, February 5, on charges of misdemeanor animal cruelty.

Ms. Elias, 52, of 114 E. 122nd Street, was arrested by ASPCA Special Agent Debbie Ryan for neglecting her pet poodle so severely that it became immobilized from lack of grooming.

The dog, a female, six-year-old miniature poodle named “Miss Bea,” was discovered by Agent Ryan in a closet of Ms. Elias’ apartment on January 3, after the ASPCA received an anonymous complaint. Unable to stand or walk, she was taken to the ASPCA’s Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital, where veterinarians shaved nearly one-third of her body weight—three pounds—of matted fur laden with urine, feces and filth. They also trimmed her overgrown nails and treated an ear infection.

“Miss Bea’s body and all four of her legs were encased in a solid cocoon of severely matted hair, and she demonstrated considerable pain when she was handled,” said Dr. Robert Reisman, Medical Coordinator of Animal Abuse Cases at the ASPCA’s Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital. “This was an extreme case of neglect. She suffered significantly. It was heartbreaking to see her like that.” Reisman also said the muscles in Miss Bea’s front legs had atrophied due to her extended non-ambulatory state, and her carpal joints—the equivalent of wrists in humans—became extended to compensate for her immobility. Furthermore, her nails were so overgrown they had curled around and pierced the skin on her paws. Miss Bea’s condition, which Reisman estimates took at least four to six months to reach, “significantly compromised her ability to move and didn’t happen overnight.”

“Dogs like Miss Bea, and poodles in general, are not ‘low maintenance,’ pets, but on the contrary, require consistent grooming,” said Gail Buchwald, the ASPCA’s Senior Vice President of Adoption and Mobile Clinic Outreach programs. “This means daily combing and brushing, as well as scissoring and trimming, or visits to a professional groomer, every four to six weeks.” Buchwald also notes that poodle hair does not fall out naturally, but rather, becomes caught in surrounding hair, making it all the more likely to matt and thereby making regular grooming all the more critical. “While the non-shedding quality in poodles and other non-shedding breeds is favored by many pet owners, we must remember that it is not natural; it is a trait that has been bred into dogs as a result of selective breeding, and it requires human intervention for proper maintenance. Without this care, the pet is at risk of suffering and injury.”

Ms. Elias has been charged with one count of misdemeanor animal cruelty and faces up to one year in jail and/or a $2,000 fine. She has since relinquished the dog to the ASPCA. Despite her prior condition, Miss Bea’s prognosis is good, and she will be made available for adoption in the coming days after she is spayed.