Footballer breaks down as shocking pictures of his starved Staffordshire Bull Terrier are shown in court

Warning: Some people may find the images in this story disturbing

An amateur footballer broke down in tears as pictures of his starved pet dog were shown to Bristol Magistrates’ Court during a sentencing hearing today.

Liam Orchard, 29, was banned from keeping animals for 10 years after failing to provide adequate care for the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, which weighed just 10.5kg and was ‘covered in faeces’ when it was rescued in December.

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The court heard that Orchard’s neighbours had become concerned for the welfare of the dog, known as ‘Spot’ and notified the RSPCA who called at his home in Juniper Court, Eastville for a welfare check.

Lindi Meyer, prosecuting for the RSPCA, told the court there were more visits from the charity which entailed Orchard ‘obstructing’ officers, telling them he was ‘busy’ and that there was ‘nothing wrong’ with Spot.

Liam Orchard was banned from having pets for 10 years after pleading guilty to causing unnecessary suffering to an animal

In September 2021, Spot was taken to a vet who was so concerned by his condition that she arranged for urgent blood tests, however this appointment was later cancelled by Orchard.

In December, during another visit from the RSPCA, Orchard agreed to bring Spot to the front door, and he was immediately rushed to a vet after officers saw the dog was ‘emaciated’ and had clumps of faeces on his nails.

Spot was placed in the care of the RSPCA after the vet reported that the animal’s eyes were ‘rolling’, his coat was soiled and his weight was ‘dangerously low’.

Orchard, a former Bristol City academy youth player who last played for Tytherington Rocks near Thornbury, broke down and his mother, who was present in court for the sentencing, gasped in shock as pictures of the animal’s emaciated frame were shown by Ms Meyer to the court.

According to Ms Meyer, Spot has since recovered and is ‘doing really well’, but concerns have been raised once again after Orchard recently started caring for a new puppy.

When rescued, Spot’s eyes were ‘rolling’, his coat was soiled and his weight was ‘dangerously low’

Defence solicitor Will Palmer told the court that Orchard, who suffers from anxiety, ‘adored’ Spot and that his actions were ‘not born out of malice or cruelty’.

Mr Palmer said that Spot’s problems with eating began after the death of Orchard’s father, who passed away from cancer two years ago.

Placed in Orchard’s care, Spot would apparently go through bouts of eating on and off, but ‘always recovered’ and as Mr Orchard was a ‘stubborn and independent’ person, he wanted to nurse the dog back to health himself.

“It’s true that the defendant was foolish in not accepting help,” Mr Palmer told the court. “It was too little, but thankfully not too late.

“This was totally out of character for a person who is essentially a very caring young man, always putting the concerns of others before his own. This is not a young man who hates animals.

The RSPCA took Spot into care and away from Orchard

“Goodness knows what happened, but he truly regrets all of this. It’s been a real eye-opener for him and I’m sure he’ll be more accepting of help in future.”

Mr Palmer added that there were ‘no issues at all’ with the new puppy, which had plenty of food, water, toys and bedding.

Sentencing Orchard, who pleaded guilty to causing unnecessary suffering to the dog, magistrates said the matter was a ‘serious case’ that justified disqualification from the ownership of animals for 10 years. The order means that Orchard’s new puppy will also be taken away.

Along with the ban, Orchard must also complete a community order of 18 months, a rehabilitation order of 30 days and pay £400 in costs.

Fortunately, Spot has now made a full recovery

Speaking after the hearing, Inspector Kim Walters, who investigated for the animal welfare charity said: “Our plea to all animal owners is to make sure they always receive the care they need.

“Pets are completely reliant on their owners to ensure their needs are met and they are kept safe and healthy. Owning an animal is a privilege - and ensuring appropriate care is a key part of the responsibility we have towards our pets. It’s so sad that, in this instance, that responsibility was not met and Spot was left to suffer.”