Lucy's Story

Lucy's Story

We thank you for caring so much for Lucy, and to everyone who donated in her name, we are truly grateful. As with all animals who come into our care, we spared no effort or expense in helping to care for and rehabilitate Lucy. Obviously, we were all hoping for a happier ending.

This page provides more information on Lucy’s rescue and subsequent treatment at RSPCA WA. We want you to know that we did everything we possibly could to rehabilitate her and give her the life that every dog deserves.

From the day we rescued Lucy on 13 July, she showed signs of fear and stress which presented in aggressive behaviours, but it was difficult to determine if that was as a result of her background (likely as a backyard breeder), the trauma of her accident, or that she was about to give birth.

Once she had had her puppies, she continued to show signs of aggression, with bites at her carers and vet staff. Again, as a new protective Mum, it was hard to ascertain the cause of this aggressive behaviour but we persisted.

To provide a more comfortable environment for her to bond with her pups, Lucy was placed with an experienced RSPCA WA staff member in a foster home. She did not respond well, was fearful and anxious. After taking food, she would lunge at her carer, so had to be kept in her crate at feeding times.

Her reactions to her carer also made it difficult to administer medication to one of her pups, so Lucy and the pups were all brought back to the shelter where this could be managed more closely in a safer environment.

After suffering from mastitis, which was treated here at RSPCA, Lucy was placed in another foster home with an experienced carer. Her behaviour did not improve. She demonstrated unrelenting efforts to escape. She also reacted aggressively to people, charging, barking, growling and lunging. For the safety of the foster carer and their family, Lucy was brought back to the Animal Care Centre. 

Lucy presented a potential danger to people around her. She has also showed that she was aggressive to numerous other animals. Placing her in a foster environment or rehoming her would have been irresponsible also due to the high risk she posed to the community, especially if approached by children or other animals.

The medical and behavioural teams have been providing round the clock care for Lucy from her rescue, right through the birth, growth and development of her pups, until now. 

The behavioural team have worked with her daily, building her trust, establishing a routine and providing positive reinforcement for calm behaviour. They also worked on counter-conditioning of her triggers (providing rewards and treats when her triggers were nearby) and desensitisation to avoid the things that scared her the most.

Lucy suffered from multiple competing issues: her fear of, and aggression towards, people; aggression towards other animals; and separation anxiety if left alone for even a few minutes. These competing issues presented unique challenges for treatment: medication might treat one issue but aggravate another, and behaviour training didn’t address some of her fear and anxiety issues.

Sadly, her constant state of fear and anxiety continued to impact negatively on her welfare and quality of life.

RSPCA WA engaged the services of one of Perth’s top veterinarians and animal behaviourists who specialises in assessing the conditions of dogs with behavioural issues. We asked them to assess Lucy’s condition and evaluate her prognosis for rehabilitation to a stage where she would no longer be suffering from constant fear and anxiety and would no longer present any potential danger to the community or other animals.

"Lucy was born with a genetic vulnerability to stress, which when coupled with deprivation and the physical stress of pregnancy resulted in severe damage to her developing brain. The result was a slowing of brain development and permanent alteration to the structure of some brain regions. Behaviourally, this has resulted in debilitating mental health disease that severely affects her day-to-day functioning and quality of life. Euthanasia was recommended on humane grounds.”
- Statement provided from Independent Veterinarian and Animal Behaviourist

Lucy was put to sleep this afternoon at 12:30pm, following a last meal of steak and treats. The team of animal attendants, vets, trainers and volunteers who have cared for her over the past three months – probably the only people who showed her any kindness in her relatively short life – bid her sad farewell this morning.

A short message from the Animal Services Team who looked after Lucy:

We are heartbroken. As a team, we become very attached to not only Lucy but every animal we care for. We did everything in our power to look after and provide for Lucy’s physical, emotional and mental wellbeing. Sadly, although we write this through heartbreak and our unconditional love for her, we believe that her welfare takes precedent over our personal attachment. We are all human and it has affected us more than you could possibly imagine. We will miss you beautiful Lucy. Forever in our hearts. 



  • Lisette Hoflehner:

    19 Jan 2018 16:47:25

    Why couldnt she be on valium to help her thats so wrong there are medications to have helped her

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