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Man’s animal ban after unkempt dogs with ‘fur matted from nose to bottom’ seized from filthy Keith home

Graham Elrick's dogs were badly matted and suffering.
Graham Elrick's dogs were badly matted and suffering.

A dog owner who neglected his three pets and allowed them to become so matted they couldn’t see properly has been banned from keeping animals.

Graham Elrick kept Shih Tzus, named Scooby and Scrappy, and a brindle lurcher, called Lady, in squalid conditions at his Keith home.

Scooby and Scrappy were found with fur “matted from nose to bottom” impairing their ability to see and even defecate when the SSPCA arrived at the property last September.

The pair had to be completely shaved by a vet, with the fur removed filling two bin bags, Elgin Sheriff Court has heard.

Elrick yelled out “I want my dogs back!” from the dock after being told they have since been rehomed with loving owners and he’d never get them back.

Graham Elrick’s dogs Scrappy and Scooby were badly matted. Photos:  SSPCA

The 67-year-old’s Nelson Terrace house was filled with bags of rubbish, mouldy dishes and was in a state of “disarray”.

Fiscal depute Karen Poke said that the SSPCA received a complaint regarding the welfare of the animals and an inspector gained access to check on them at around 2.50pm on September 28 last year.

“Both Shih Tzus were matted with hair matted over their faces and over their tails where there were several clumps of faeces,” the fiscal said.

“The SSPCA inspector told Mr Elrick she had concerns for the welfare of the dogs given their condition and that of the property.

“She asked to take a look around and she noted that the floor was thick with dirt and sticky to walk on. The only clear floor space was in the hall.”

Dogs living amongst rubbish and dirt

The court heard how Elrick’s filthy flat was piled high with rubbish, dishes, dirty dog food and water bowls and completely unhygienic surfaces.

The living room and kitchen were piled with debris and cigarette butts, countertops were covered in mouldy dishes and “several full bin bags of rubbish” were lying on the floor.

The inspector immediately seized the three dogs and took them to Aberdeen for a veterinary examination.

“Both Shih Tzus had extensive matting of their fur from nose to bottom making a full examination difficult,” Ms Poke added. “They had to be sedated and shaved in order to assess them properly.

Graham Elrick outside Elgin Sheriff Court.

“Matted fur on the face of one Shih Tzu was imposing on their cornea, which would have been obstructing their vision and causing pain, crusting and pulling on their face.

“Both dogs had matting to their ears but no infection.

“Scrappy and Scooby would have suffered unnecessarily due to their fur being allowed to get into this condition and live in these conditions.

“The mats were so heavy and large they would have been pulling on the skin and preventing normal behaviour and defecating.”

The vet believed this would have been easily avoided with grooming and had been a result of two to three months worth of neglect.

“All three dogs were well fed and watered but their bowls were dirty,” the court also heard.

“On leaving the vets the dogs were taken to an animal rescue and rehoming centre in Banchory to be looked after.”

‘Social isolation’

Elrick admitted two counts of causing a protected animal unnecessary suffering between August 1 and October 1 last year by failing to provide adequate treatment and care for them, allowing extensive matting of their fur, malnutrition and overgrown nails.

His defence agent Ben Thom said his client wished to “first and foremost express his sincere apologies to all concerned”.

“He has had animals all his adult life and has always considered himself able to look after those animals appropriately,” he said. “Clearly things have gone wrong in latter years.”

The solicitor suggested Elrick was a “socially isolated” man whose issues were worsened during the Covid-19 pandemic.

‘I want my dogs back’

“Those issues with social isolation and mobility has impacted and led to a deterioration of his living standards.

“There’s no suggestion he intended to cause his pets unnecessary suffering but that is the end effect of what has happened.”

He said Elrick had since moved home and was now receiving support from health, welfare and housing officers and asked that sentence be deferred for a few months to see whether he was then fit to look after animals again.

As Sheriff Gordon Fleetwood rejected that proposal, opting instead to deal with matters immediately, Elrick stated from the dock: “I want my dogs back”.

Sheriff Fleetwood handed him a £470 fine and granted a deprivation order, meaning he won’t get Scooby, Scrappy or Lady back. He also banned Elrick, now of Victoria Road, Elgin, from keeping animals for three years.

In response, Elrick said: “I’m sorry, I cannot accept that and I won’t accept that.”

He suggested he wouldn’t pay a fine and “would rather do the time”.

Happy ending for dogs

Acting chief inspector, Fiona McKenzie, welcomed the sentencing and said Elrick’s three dogs are now in loving homes.

She added: “We are pleased that Graham Elrick has been handed a three-year ban and a £470 fine. We hope Elrick will seriously reconsider his ability to care for animals in the future.

“All three dogs have since found loving homes and have settled in really well. Lady is enjoying life with her new owner and Scooby and Scrappy were rehomed together.”

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