WARNING: This story contains graphic details of animal cruelty

A Duncan couple charged in a notorious case of animal neglect appeared in court on their first day of trial Wednesday.

Anderson Joe and Melissa Tooshley both initially pleaded not guilty to charges of failing to provide necessities for an animal, and Joe pleaded not guilty to a charge of causing unnecessary pain or suffering to an animal.

But in court Wednesday, Tooshley changed her plea to guilty. She admitted to the court that she was aware the dog, Teddy, was tethered and in poor condition, and also admitted to failing to provide shelter, food, water and care.

There was some confusion during the trial as Tooshley left shortly after changing her plea. Court officials were trying to have her return, as defence counsel expressed concern that she could have evidence that would exonerate her partner.

The charges stem from an SPCA seizure on a Duncan property on Feb. 16, 2018.

Investigators say they found Teddy emaciated, chained up and in critical distress. The dog’s collar was embedded so deeply in his neck it made his head swell up to nearly three times its normal size.

The BC SPCA called it one of the "most profoundly shocking and disturbing cases of abuse we have ever witnessed." Teddy died in SPCA care days later.

Dog suffered deep lacerations, low body temperature

Expert witness Glenna McGregor, a veterinarian pathologist from Abbotsford, performed a necropsy on the dog on Feb. 21, 2018.

She testified in court that the dog suffered severe swelling in his head and his jugular veins were blocked.

She also testified that the animal’s trachea was exposed by a laceration five centimetres deep in the front and two centimetres deep in the back. She believes the wound was present for 10 to 20 days. 

McGregor said the dog had no fat on his body, suffered muscle loss and had a plastic ground beef wrapper in his stomach.

Another expert witness and veterinarian was also called to the witness stand. 

Rachel Johnson testified that she received a call at the Duncan Animal Hospital when the dog was brought in. The dog was not moving and had a temperature of 32.1 degrees, which is very low, she said.

Johnson testified that she began warming the dog, administered intravenous fluids and cut a rope and a collar from around the dog’s neck. The collar, she said, wasn’t visible because it was embedded in his neck.

Joe and Tooshley could face up to five years in prison, a $10,000 fine and a lifetime ban on owning animals.

The trial resumes Friday at the Duncan Law Courts.