The haunting story about what happened to two young dogs from NSW, Ruby and Benji.

There was a story that rocked our community recently. It confused us, it made us sad, but it made a lot of people mad. Mad enough to start an online petition which currently has over 57,000 signatures and counting.

Kimberley Atwell is a 21-year-old woman. She owned two dogs – one a kelpie puppy named Ruby and a two-year-old staffy cross named Benji. In a perfect world, they might have popped up on your Instagram when you were searching #dogsofinstagram one afternoon. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.

Kimberley left her two dogs, Ruby and Benji, locked up in the laundry of her house, without food or water and moved away. For three weeks they were trapped in the laundry. For three weeks, no one knew they were in there. And tragically, Benji and Ruby died of starvation and dehydration in the laundry.

My stomach is churning even writing the words and my eyes feel prickly as I write those sentences. No animal, whether a pet or not, should be forced to endure such a horrific death. Even more heartbreaking, the officer took a photo of the dogs the day they were found and Ruby’s little paw is resting on Benji’s body. It’s a picture that immediately makes you reach for the closest dog and hug it and love the crap out of it.

So apart from the glaringly obvious extreme neglect inflicted on Ruby and Benji – it gets worse.

Kimberley Atwell was fined $144, ordered 80 hours of community service and has been banned from owning an animal for the next five years. I was so shocked when I heard that. I’ve paid parking fines that have been more expensive than that and 80 hours is essentially two weeks of full-time work.

Warning: Graphic image. 

dogs starved
How Benji and Ruby were found. Image via

When Kimberley is 26 years old, she will be legally allowed to own another dog. How can this be right?

Now there’s a petition. 57,000 signatures and counting to enforce the maximum penalty for Kimberly. The petition is pleading for the RSPCA to appeal the magistrate’s decision and place more importance on animal welfare.

I didn’t just sign the petition because I love animals and I have a dog myself – I signed it because we need to acknowledge the cruelty of treating animals like this.

I’ve found myself thinking of my little Jack Russell amongst all this, Lulu. Sometimes I want to hug her so hard because she’s so cute (that’s actually a thing – it’s called ‘cute aggression’ but let’s save that for another day). If I accidentally step on her toe, I want to cry. I could never imagine putting her in harm’s way deliberately.

Unfortunately, cases like this aren’t the only ones out there. Last month, there was a man who ran down some wild emus in his car. And he was laughing about it – on camera. It’s sickening and goes beyond personality flaws – this is a deep mental disturbance. When I was researching why people are cruel to animals, I came across some horrible stories and couldn’t even bare to look at any pictures.

But cruelty to animals is more than a lack of empathy - psychiatrist Dr. Rene Samaniego says cruelty to animals is an early sign of conduct disorder, which can later develop into psychopathy or antisocial personality disorder.

Most of us have a pet and most of us know what an emotional impact having a pet can have on our life. They teach us how to love unconditionally, they’re loyal companions and they deserve our full and undivided protection. I hope animal cruelty laws get stricter so that what happened to little Benji and Ruby never happens again – make sure you give your pet an extra long pat today for them.

Riley-Rose Harper is a breakfast radio announcer for the Hit Network in Albury. For more on Riley-Rose, you can follow her here.