A DOG owner has been banned from keeping animals for 20 years after four emaciated puppies were found surrounded by flies in filthy conditions on his canal boat in Dudley.

Richard Serl, aged 53, was also ordered to pay £840 and given an 18-month community order after being charged with two animal welfare offences.

He was found keeping four Irish setter puppies in wet and dirty conditions, surrounded by flies. They were also underweight with all their bones visible.

The RSPCA investigated after concerns were raised about the welfare of dogs living on Serl's boat on the Dudley Canal, St Peters Road, near Dunns Bridge in Bumble Hole in August 2019.

Inspector Vicki Taylor visited the boat and nobody answered but she could see four Irish setter puppies in bad conditions.

Serl was contacted and advised to clean the area and to ensure that if any of the pups were ill they needed to see a vet.

Upon her return, Inspector Taylor found the pups were clearly underweight and could easily feel their bones, ribs, spine and hips.

The dogs were taken to a vet who concluded all four puppies were underweight.

The vet report noted that all the puppy's long bones were easily visible, as were the pelvic prominences and there was little body fat palpable.

They also found all the puppies were quieter than would be expected.

Serl was charged with causing unnecessary suffering and failing to protect the needs of protected animals and found guilty in his absence after failing to turn up in court.

He was banned from keeping animals for 20 years in a hearing at Birmingham Magistrates Court on June 17.

He will not be able to appeal the ban for 10 years.

Inspector Taylor said: "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 diet and essential veterinary care is a key part of the responsibility we have towards our pets.

"Puppies require a specific diet for their age to allow them to grow and put on weight.

"Whilst in the hospital and under the care of the RSPCA all of the puppies gained weight and improved their body condition scores over a period of six weeks.

"A responsible owner would have increased the amount of food available to the puppies and sought veterinary advice if they were not gaining weight as expected."