A Canberra woman who let her dogs starve in rooms filled with faeces and rubbish has been banned from owning pets for 10 years.
The RSPCA first went to the woman's home in April 2014, acting on a public tip-off about possible neglect.
What they found was enough for them to force entry to the house and seize four dogs and a cat.
One doberman - described by RSPCA chief executive Tammy Ven Dange as a "grey ghost" - was so underweight that it's spine, ribs, and hips were clearly visible.
It was being kept in a yard strewn with rubbish and animal faeces.
It had an untreated, infected ulcer, a mite infestation, was losing clumps of hair, and had no shelter.
Subsequent checks gave it the worst body condition score available, and the dog was described by a veterinarian as "emaciated".
A second dog was underweight, had hair loss, and a flea infestation, while a third had a bacterial infection in its ear.
A Pomeranian was found locked in a room - again covered with faeces and rubbish - where it is thought to have been kept for some days without food or water.
That dog was also underweight and had hair loss, fleas, and overgrown nails.
Thankfully, all the dogs have recovered and have now been re-homed.
The owner, Leanne McLeish, 38, broke down on Monday as she told the ACT Magistrates Court she was sorry for what she had done, saying she loved her pets.
"I hate myself every day for what's happened to them," she said.
She told RSPCA inspectors that she was in Queensland and was too embarrassed to ask for help, because of the state of the house.
She again apologised before being sentenced by Magistrate Bernadette Boss in the ACT Magistrates Court.
"I'm sorry for not asking for help," she said.
"I love my dogs. I didn't mean to put them through pain."
McLeish said she could not afford to pay for surrendering her animals to the RSPCA.
She asked for a non-conviction order, something quickly Dr Boss quickly dismissed, saying such a weak sentence would send "completely the wrong message".
Dr Boss told her the offences amounted to "extreme neglect", and that she would have been sentenced to imprisonment but for her mental and physical health problems.
The magistrate said owning animals came with significant responsibilities. If an owner couldn't meet those responsibilities, they shouldn't take animal on, she said.
"You caused suffering to another living thing," Dr Boss said.
"If these animals were children, you would be facing a very lengthy sentence of imprisonment."
McLeish was sentenced to 250 hours of community service, put on a two-year good behaviour order, and banned from owning pets for 10 years.
Ms Ven Dange took photos of the doberman when it first arrived at the RSPCA, and said the case stuck in her mind.
"That doberman sticks with me because it was just so bad," she said.
"I don't know how she was still standing. She really was just a grey ghost."
Ms Ven Dange said she was happy with the 10-year ban handed down by Dr Boss, saying not many magistrates appear willing to make such lengthy prohibitions on animal ownership.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.