A WOMAN who hid her dog’s skin infection to avoid a vet bill has been fined more than £2,000 and banned from keeping pets.

Carol Maher, of Broad Street, Windermere, appeared in court for causing ‘unnecessary suffering’ to 15-year-old German Shepherd, Gatsby, by covering up its ‘chronic’ infection with a dog coat while she administered internet-bought herbal remedies.

“The bills proved simply too expensive for this defendant,” said Darren Lee-Smith, in mitigation for mother-of-three, Ms Maher.

“It was not a deliberate attempt to hurt the dog but a failure without intent to get the correct treatment.”

But Steven Marsh, prosecuting for the RSPCA, told Kendal magistrates he was ‘concerned’ by Ms Maher’s attempts to cover up the dog’s sores.

“The dog’s whole body was covered,” he said.

“The dog was licking its sores so bacteria was getting in and it was getting worse.”

The court heard Ms Maher had previously had the dog treated for a flea infestation.

But when it strayed into a neighbour’s garden last summer it was suffering infections of the skin and both ears. The neighbour contacted the council and the RSPCA later became involved.

In a statement read in court, the vet who treated the dog said discharge from its sores had ‘stuck’ to the coat – and it had needed ‘prompt, aggressive treatment’ or it would have been put to sleep.

Gatsby has since recovered and been re-homed – but treatment, boarding and the prosecution of Ms Maher has cost the RSPCA more than £5,000.

Ms Maher, who works part-time at the Tourist Information Office in Windermere, initially pleaded not guilty to the charge of causing suffering to her pet.

But she changed her plea to guilty and Mr Lee-Smith said her ‘primary concern’ was the dog. However, magistrates banned her from keeping dogs for two years, fined her £2,060 and ordered her to carry out 180 hours of unpaid work.

“Obviously we’re pleased with the result,” RSPCA inspector Will Lamping said.

“Hopefully the disqualification will protect other dogs and over the next two years the defendant will consider her duty of care to any pets she may have in the future.”