Overweight Dog Loses Half Of His Weight After Owners Convicted Of Cruelty


Rusty, once overweight, is now a healthy Labrador again.

This ten-year-old dog was 161 pounds when his owners, Derek and David Benton, were convicted of cruelty for allowing Rusty to gain so much weight and causing unnecessary suffering.

Rusty was struggling to walk and was suffering from arthritis, which was more painful because of his weight.

RSPCA officers seized Rusty from the Bentons and the brothers were ordered to pay for RSPCA’s legal costs and were given a three year conditional discharge.

Now, after seeing a vet and a combination of a good diet and exercise, Rusty weighs 88 pounds. He finally has a waistline and people can feel his ribs again.

His vet said, “Prior to his treatment and weight loss Rusty was the most disabled dog I have ever seen in practice. However, he now has a proper life again. He did literally look like a walrus. There were times when he couldn’t get up from his back legs at all. He is a much happier and healthier dog now, his pain is well-controlled and he walks much better than he could before.”

After ten months apart, officials said the Bentons were allowed to resume custody of Rusty on the condition he lost weight and will not put the weight back on.

Source: Daily Mail

(Thanks Marie)

20 Responses to “Overweight Dog Loses Half Of His Weight After Owners Convicted Of Cruelty”

  1. Guthrie says:

    I hope these people can stick to the contract. The clinic I work at has a client who will not hear that her 4 year old lab is overweight. Last visit he weighed 141. She will give details about his 3 meals and 3 snacks a day. When you tell her it’s unhealthy she gets extremely ugly! What do you do with people like this except report them?

    (Her son comes in with her sometimes and he is probably 5′6″ and has to weigh over 300 lbs.)

  2. Denise says:

    They are killing their dog with food. My missy (shihtu) loves to eat but make sure she gets out to run and play alot and she is young. I cut her back a little bit when she starting getting a bit chunky and incresased play time and it worked. I wished these people realized what they are doing. Denise

  3. purplecircle4pets.com says:

    How incredible, I never knew that it was even possible to take a pet due to a weight issue. Could you imagine if we could do this for our kids. What a happy and healthier world we would have. I guess the old saying of ” you are what you eat ” applies to the whole family according to the previous comment and it looks like Pet Junk food plays a big role.

  4. Don Earl says:

    I have trouble with the use of the term cruelty in these kind of cases. The total absence of malice or bad intent involved in these situations makes it hard for me to view those involved as deserving of being treated as criminals.

    IMO, there’s a huge difference between someone who sets a dog on fire and someone who spends their hard earned money on extra treats out of love for the pet. Granted pets are healthier not being over weight, but I also think people are healthier when they don’t spend their days driving around looking for fat dogs.

  5. Velvet's Dad says:

    Don Earl, I couldn’t disagree with you more. Granted, there is a big difference between enacting intentional cruelty on an animal by, say, setting it on fire and unintended cruelty by overfeeding. However, the result is the same: harm to the animal.

    The example Guthrie gives is a good case in point. Re-read that and pay careful attention to the owner’s response. She “gets extremely ugly.” That should tell you something. This woman, based on what Guthrie says, clearly is not competent to own the animal. Therefore, she should be reported, the pet should be removed from her custody–and frankly–she ought not to be able to own a pet. There is something mentally awry with her.

    Starving a pet or overfeeding it–both are detrimental to an animal. When a vet or other caring party points this out to an owner, the owner can no longer be forgiven for ignorance. Either they take corrective action for the benefit of their pet, or the pet should be taken from them. Period.

  6. Katie says:

    Morbid obesity like that is certainly less dramatic than setting a dog on fire, but if it ends up with the dog being killed because it can no longer get up due to the absurd amount of wear and tear on joints and body, well, dead is dead.

  7. cat lady says:

    I think that there are enough real cruelty cases out there that the RSPCA would have their hands full with them. DO we really want “government” telling us what we can eat and how much and how much we can feed our pets….pets that currently are only considered possessions?

    slippery slope here people….slippery slope….

    time to read “1984″ because we are living it…

  8. Nick says:

    Trouble is things are not always as they seem. Here’s an SHG press release about Rusty at the time of the original conviction. See what you think after reading it:

    SHG Press Release

    The Fat Dog Case

    The RSPCA failed to alleviate Rusty’s suffering.

    All they achieved was to add the hunger pangs of starvation to the pain of arthritis and hip dysplasia and to separate Rusty from those he loved.


    18th January 2007

    On the eve of Rusty’s return to the Bentons The Self Help Group for Farmers, Pet Owners and Others experiencing difficulties with the RSPCA (The SHG) is breaking its silence on this matter in order to correct the misunderstandings relating to the merits of bringing this prosecution in the light of the statement by Ben Bradshaw, during the final debate before the Animal Welfare Act 2006 (AWA) became law, that

    “It is not the Government’s intention to punish the owners of fat cats, although overfeeding an animal can be problematic”

    Said Ernest Vine of the SHG: “We hope that once the AWA is in force the RSPCA will comply with the intentions of Parliament and will never again bring a case involving an overweight animal before the courts.”

    “Rusty was suffering in the care of the Bentons. Rusty has been suffering in the care of the RSPCA. And Rusty will continue to suffer until the day he dies, irrespective of whose care he is in.”

    “Most of Rusty’s weight gain occurred following an operation to neuter him. Neutered or spayed dogs need 30% less food than unaltered dogs and it is this factor that is contributing to so much obesity in the canine world.”

    “In Rusty’s case this reduction in food intake has to be added to the reduction necessary to account for his inability to exercise because of the pain from his hip dysplasia and severe arthritis and his need to lose weight. The only means by which he can lose weight is for his dietary intake to be restricted.”

    According to Duncan Davidson, the defence vet, Rusty had unusually large amounts of grass in his faeces and was desperate to eat grass when outside. Rusty’s need to eat grass can be explained by Mr. Davidson’s estimation that Rusty needs a 75% reduction of the normal labrador’s dietary intake.

    Anne Kasica said “So the RSPCA have replaced the suffering of being overweight with the suffering of feeling continually starved and desperate to eat. No-one can cure Rusty’s arthritis which is the cause of his obesity. Indeed, if it were so easy to diet Jackie Ballard, the Director General of the RSPCA would have gone through life with a slender waif like build.”

    “Which form of suffering is worse? Rusty cannot walk and exercise even when slimmed down because of his arthritis. And in his twilight years the one pleasure that every Labrador is renowned for enjoying, eating, has been denied him as a result of this ill-judged political prosecution.”

    “The Bentons were found not guilty of causing unnecessary suffering by failing to adequately treat Rusty’s ear condition because with all of the immense resources available to them, the RSPCA had also failed to cure it. Just as they have failed to cure his eye problems and arthritis.”

    Indeed, Rusty had enjoyed treatment paid for by pet insurance for most of his life. But his pet insurance ended when he reached the cut off age. And the Benton’s vets, Pet Doctors, refused to treat Rusty unless they were paid cash up front. Pet Doctors also refused to let the Bentons pay in instalments.

    Said Anne Kasica: “The massive costs of the RSPCA’s treatment regime for Rusty were beyond the purse of any ordinary pet owner. The RSPCA could have offered to help with the cost of veterinary treatment for Rusty but instead chose to spend many thousands of pounds in prosecuting his owners. They put Rusty through further misery by separating him from the people he loved and taking him from the only home he knew.”

    “This case highlights the reasons why people are afraid to approach the RSPCA for help. We have been campaigning for some time for an animal NHS for the animals of pensioners because just when insurance is most needed, when an animal becomes elderly and its owners income drops, is the time insurance is no longer available.

    The SHG urges government to introduce a National Animal Health Service which we believe would do more to reduce animal suffering than all of the animal welfare legislation that has been passed while this government has been in power.

    The SHG urges the government to take steps to control RSPCA prosecutions by requiring them to be scrutinised by the police and CPS before they are allowed to proceed, and we ask the CPS to actively quality control all RSPCA prosecutions by taking over and dropping those which are clearly political or which no responsible prosecutor would bring.
    Notes to Editors: -

    House of Commons Hansard Debates for 06 Nov 2006 (pt 0001)

    The SHG Response to the EIG consultation

    Pudgy pooch lumbers home - The ChronicleHerald.ca

    Brothers found guilty over ‘grossly’ obese dog

    Defence Barrister: Ann Marie Gregory of St. Pauls Chambers Leeds

    For further comment please contact Anne Kasica on 01559 371031 or Ernest Vine on 01559 370566. Mobile 07719 367148. e-mail: shg@the-shg.org

    The SHG was officially formed in June 1990 and has been helping people to defend themselves and their animals from the RSPCA ever since. The national help line number is 08700 72 66 89

    A copy of this and previous press releases from The SHG are online at

    Background information on the Self Help Group for Farmers Pet Owners and Other Experiencing Difficulties with the RSPCA can be found at http://www.the-shg.org

    Details of further criticisms of the RSPCA can be found at the RSPCA-Animadversion website: http://cheetah.webtribe.net/~animadversion


  9. furmom says:

    I don’t see overfeeding as the same as intentional cruelty. People overfeed for many reasons (and many people do it). Some have emotional problems regarding food themselves, and translate that to their dog. They don’t know how to limit their pet’s excess food without feeling guilty. They are ignorant of the harm they do to an elderly arthritic pet, yes, even when the obvious is pointed out. Why couldn’t they reduce their pet’s intake gradually, to save him the discomfort of arthritis and of having to lose weight quickly, separated from loved ones? Why would it cost a huge amount for someone to do this for them, perhaps no foster pet-parent available. It’s not that tricky to limit food and gradually increase exercise. People just don’t seem to get it that overfeeding causes their pet harm, I don’t get it. Cruelty? no. Ignorance? Certainly.

  10. Sandy says:

    It IS cruel to make any animal overweight and suffer the long term issues caused by that weight..In this case the dog was TWICE what it should weight. I have a lab and both pictures look fat. I do not think the after pic looks right. Once your dog gets to be say 5-10 pounds overweight it should clue you in to decrease food and make the dog move more..Even with arthritis there is just no reason to allow your pet to suffer spinal fractures, diabetes and so many ills from poisening it with TOO MUCH food and too little exercise..The dog should be AKC stanards weigh about 80 pounds NOT 161 pounds. Idiot owners…And one form of abuse does not make null and void other forms abuse is abuse

  11. Don Earl says:

    RE: “Even with arthritis there is just no reason to allow your pet to suffer spinal fractures, diabetes and so many ills from poisening it with TOO MUCH food and too little exercise.”

    What do they figure as a dog year? 7 years?

    Ten years old makes Rusty the same age as a 70 year old human.

    So… grandpa is getting a bit creaky in the joints and just doesn’t get about the way he used to. There’s isn’t much left to gramps these days, but he does enjoy his snacks, and you know, it’s kind of nice to have the lifelong family about.

    BUT WAIT! Gramps is getting rather thick about the equator these days! His family must be abusing him or he would still look like an athletic 20 year old! A bunch of publicity seeking radicals said so.

    What’s the solution?

    First we must separate Gramps from his loved ones. Next, we must starve Grandpa and put him on a treadmill. That’s the ticket! It may make his twilight years miserable, but by golly, he’ll look great in his coffin.

    I guess there are different perspectives on what constitutes “cruelty” to some folks. Taking an old, arthritic dog out of his lifelong home, and starving 80 pounds off him with forced exercise, well, I don’t know about a dog’s view, but if someone tried that with me, I’d certainly bite them.

  12. furmom says:

    A lot of people are killing their pets with kindness, overfeeding them. So there are a lot of “cruel” people out there. And a for gramps, if he was 200 pounds when he was 20, and 400 pounds at age 70, I’d say that’s bording on some kind of abuse. If gramps is competent, I guess that’s his priviledge. But if he isn’t and someone is responsible for overfeeding him… it’s a sign of our society’s confused attitude toward food (food _ love) and health. It wouldn’t be necessary to starve him and force him to exercise in pain, if he weren’t allowed to get so much overweight in the first place. An awful lot of grampas and dogs would have to be confiscated. If it were the same as cruelty or legally defined abuse (difficult to define at best) then a lot of people would be in jail.

  13. furmom says:

    To be clear, just because it’s common, doesn’t mean it’s right either.

  14. M says:

    Im sorry..even that other article that says “now the dog has hunger pangs” well duhh…anyone dog, human or otherwise would have hunger pangs if it was put on a diet. It’s common sense, when you reduce food intake your going to be hungry.

    I hope Rusty’s family can see the err of their ways and try to reduce Rusty’s weight so he can live a happy healthy less painful life.

    I think the RSPCA should have EDUCATED the family instead of taking their dog from them. Maybe the family didn’t know any better?? I know one of my dogs was “chubby” but I didn’t realize how chubby until my vet said something. I got my husband on board and we put him on the green bean/bran flake diet. Worked wonders. He’s perfect weight now and has more energy…and of course he too had hunger pangs.

  15. Nancy says:

    It may not be an overt form of cruelty, such as setting them on fire, but the suffering is extreme and can go on for years. As the one poster said, suffering is suffering and dead is dead. I’ve seen too many obese dogs suffer and die as a result of their owner’s inability to manage their pet’s weight. Sure, neutering will slow the metabolism, but its a simple enough matter to reduce the food intake slightly after the neuter that it need not ever become an issue. Long before the arthritis sets in, and it WILL set in, the knee joints will usually give out from bearing too much weight. If the owner can’t afford surgical repair of the knee(s) they either put the dog down or let it suffer as it hobbles around with torn ligaments. Spinal disks rupture, pasterns break down, the heart is overworked and they are prone to respiratory failure. It is a struggle for them to get up and cross the room! How about the urine burns where they relieve themselves because there is so much fat surrounding the area? When the dog develops diabetes (and the associated health issues) will they bother with giving insulin shots the rest of the dog’s life or will they just put it down? My personal opinion is that it IS cruel to put a dog through this when it is so easy (not to mention less expensive) to control their diet and manage the weight properly.

  16. Linda's Cats says:

    Once again, i find this very troubling. I think the ASPCA is really overstepping its bounds in it’s own version of “How I think the world should be”. There are so many REAL cruelty cases out there, this is a case of 1) possible ignorance and 2) real possibility that nothing can or would change and a choice made by the parents how to handle things.

    My cat was between 16-18 when she died (i got her as a stray, and had her for 15 years). She was overweight, adn we battled that for years. something about cats who had been starved, not knowing how to say “no” to food. But as she got older, and as she lost her taste buds and smellers, all she would eat was wet high calorie food.

    As a pet parent, knowing she was old and arthritic, my vet and i decided not to worry about her weight so much. She had one or two years left. She could either live them feeling satisfied, or feeling like she was always hungry. But she would still have the arthritis, and she would still die from old age and or (at the time, undetected) cancer that took her.

    WE made that choice in an educated environment. my vet and i talked long and hard about what things to change and not change.

    My loved cat would be taken away from me cause *someone else* decided i didn’t know how to care for her.

    That is tragic.

  17. Jeanie says:

    If they can take away a dog, what about a child? Is overfeeding cruel? I think this is a question that will certainly end up on hight courts at some time given the increase in child obesity in the USA. I have witnessed overweight parents letting their overweight children snack on chips and pizza. I’m sorry, but a six year old should not have a big ol’ gut. Was that six year old happy? Yes. Did she feel abused? No. Will she have major emotional problems in the future? Who knows? I’m less concerned about fat pets than fat children, but it’s definitely something our country needs to address in a very serious manner sometime soon.

  18. Don Earl says:

    I think Linda’s comment puts it in perspective.

    Virtually all of the accounts of overweight pets I’ve seen involve older pets.

    The average lifespan for dogs runs about 11 years, so, on average, Rusty is at an age where there likely isn’t a lot of time left to him.

    I have two 8 year old cats. Both were feral kittens I rescued. The male has a large frame and looks like there was some Maine Coon in the woodpile. He’s been a rock steady, lean and healthy 11.4 pounds for years. He tends to nibble at the food dish and considers it bad form on my part if it’s empty.

    The girl is a brown tabby. She is also a fairly large framed cat, is densely muscled and early on stayed about even on weight with the male. In the last few years, she picked up a couple of pounds and is a bit on the plump side at 14 pounds. She’s active, healthy and likes to play. We get in an exercise session pretty much everyday with string toys and chasing a laser light. I’ve seen her leap three feet and snag a housefly in midair.

    Am I abusing her because a radical organization, sponsored by pet food companies that sell diet pet food for $4 a pound, says so?

    If she picks up two more pounds by the time she’s 12, does that make me “cruel”? What if toward her twilight years at around 16 she has alilments associated with old age that slow her down to the point she picks up a couple more pounds?

    This is a cat that when I acquired her would have had an average lifespan of around 3 years as a feral, would have spent her life infested with parasites, faced constant hunger, been constantly exposed to the elements, and spent her days in nearly constant fear from larger predators.

    Gee, I’m such a wicked person, someone ought to sue me or throw me in jail, especially if they can take a snap shot of her life 8-10 years from now and say, “Ain’t this awful. Why didn’t he do something?”. And hey, if she can be taken away from the home where she has been loved and nurtured her entire life, in order to starve a few pounds off her before the end, that’s just icing on the cake.

    You would be hard pressed to take any pet in a loving home where there isn’t a corresponding member from some radical pet food company or vet sponsored organization that thinks you’re the scum of the earth on some point or another. You can always follow the money back to someone who has something to sell you as a result of the publicity.

  19. Sandy says:

    If grandpa is say 90 years old and diabetic and his family feeds him all the snickers bars he wants, soon his weight doubles and he cannot walk …umm yeah that makes sense..Take care of your pets ..old or young they cannot MAKE the decisons you can ….I would not allow my child, pet or grandpa to double their weight.
    Average life span my tush, I have a golden that is 15 years old. Well past the average I can tell you he would not have made it TO 15 if I FED him so much food he was *that* overweight. I am stunned anyone could even think it is OK for these people to feed their dog to death…
    I keep my dogs trim and weigh them. These owners were WARNED many times the poor dog could hardly move . I am glad they got their pet back but I hope they feed it right.

    Age does not mean one doesnt need to take care of themself or in the case of animals or very aged humans YOU need to care for them THAT is the issue. If the dog had just been a bit overweight I would agree they should not have had it taken away but THIS kind of weight is a sin. The dog sadly looks like a pig ..I feel sorry for it

  20. Nancy G says:

    My 84 year old mother has two beagles that way over 60 pounds each. She has been told repeatedly by more than one veterinarian (she changes vets when they tell her the dogs are fat) that they are obese and unhealthy and she is shortening their life span. I know there is no malice in her feeding them, they’re like her children, but when you’ve been told that you are hurting them and continue to do it, then that’s when I believe it becomes abuse. She is fulfilling her need to spoil them…it’s not about the dogs at all. My siblings and I are about to take them from her.

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