A west Cumbrian man was jailed after he admitted neglecting his four dogs - two of which almost died.

Richard Blair-Forster, 22, of Walker Road in Salterbeck, Workington, appeared at the magistrates court in Workington yesterday. He was jailed for 16 weeks for neglecting his three German Shepherds Bailey, Rocco and Denver and his Golden Retriever Mia.

He was also given two further weeks in jail for assaulting Martyn Fletcher, the RSPCA officer who inspected his home on August 1.

Blair-Forster was previously handed a community order with a requirement to do unpaid work for the assault on Mr Fletcher but after breaching the order, magistrates at the Workington court revoked that sentence and replaced it with the extra weeks in custody.

Steven Marsh, prosecuting, told magistrates that when Mr Fletcher visited Blair-Forster’s home he described the dogs as lethargic and emaciated and in need of immediate medical attention.

Mr Marsh said: “The defendant refused to allow the dogs to be removed and the RSPCA inspector had to leave and request police assistance due to threats being made.”

Two of the dogs had to be carried into the veterinary surgery, Millcroft Vets, as they were unable to bear their own weight.

Mr Marsh read a report by Victoria Temple, the vet who assessed the dogs. The vet found the pets to be considerably underweight, with muscle loss and suffering from dehydration. She estimated the neglect had been taking place for around two months.

Bailey only weighed 15.2 kg instead of the expected 34-43 kg when he was found. It took 25 days of medical care for him to recover before he could go to foster care. It was five days before he could hold his head up and six days before he could stand. Another one of the German Shepherds had to be hospitalised for 12 days and given treatment such as intravenous fluids.

Mr Marsh said: “The vet said in 17 years of veterinary practice she had never seen dogs as starved as these two. The dogs have gone on to make good recovery.”

During a police interview, Blair-Forster told officers he “fed the dogs near-enough every day.” He also claimed he bought their food before he fed himself due to financial difficulties.

Ryan Foley, defending, apologised on Blair-Forster’s behalf for the neglect. He said: “We’re not dealing with a deliberate attempt to cause suffering, but a clear neglect. We’ve heard and read the level of suffering of these four animals who were malnourished and dehydrated. Thankfully they’ve received treatment and made a recovery.

“Mr Blair-Forster accepts these dogs shouldn’t have been in that state in the first place but the cause is incompetent care rather than something more nasty.”

Mr Foley added the defendant struggled to cope with issues in his personal life, lacked maturity and often buried his head rather than deal with problems.

Blair-Forster was banned from keeping any animal for 15 years and was ordered to pay £115 victim surcharge.

The dogs will now be rehomed by the RSPCA.

Following the sentence, Mr Fletcher said: “This result shows how seriously the magistrates have taken this. If you have animals you have to take responsibility for them. Three of the dogs are already in foster care and are doing brilliantly.

"I’d like to highlight the work Millcroft vets did. I’ve been an RSPCA inspector for 20 years and my colleague for 30, when we took the first two dogs to them we told each other they were too far gone to be saved. But Millcroft did a sterling job to bring them round. They were as close to death as I’ve ever seen.”