A PET dog found starving and dehydrated was left in a “deplorable” condition by its owner.

A vet who inspected the Staffordshire bull terrier said the animal had the worst flea infestation he had ever seen, Carlisle Crown Court was told.

When the dog named Buster was found at the home of 36-year-old Heather Ray in Whitehaven by the RSPCA, it had no water and was 6kg underweight. It was dehydrated, had not been fed for days and was said to be “perilously thin”.

However, after being rescued by the RSPCA, the dog recovered and has since been rehoused. Details of the shocking neglect emerged as Ray lodged an appeal against a prison sentence she was given following her conviction for five counts of animal neglect.

She was found guilty by magistrates of the offences, committed in June last year, after she failed to turn up for a trial. She was given a community order, which she breached, and then received a 60-day prison sentence instead. A further 60 days were added for non-payment of fines imposed for motoring offences.

Ray, of Windermere Road, won her appeal and the latter term, for fines default, was halved by Judge Peter Hughes .

Greg Hoare, prosecuting, told the court: “An inspector saw the dog was in poor bodily condition. Its ribs and spine were prominent, it was subdued and it was thought the coat had some sort of shimmer. It was an infestation of fleas.

“The vet who examined the dog said she had never seen such a phenomenal infestation on any animal she had examined.”

The dog gained 2kg in just 24 hours after being seized from Ray’s care. Alison Whalley, defending, told the court that Ray had almost served the whole of the 120-day prison sentence in any event.

A mother-of-four, Ray did not seek to challenge the magistrates’ findings in the trial as she would have pleaded guilty to the animal neglect

Judge Hughes allowed the sentence appeal but was scathing of the way Ray had treated her pet.

“That anyone could keep a dog in such a condition is deplorable,” he said. “The dog had been grossly neglected over a significant period of time.”