Published: 06:00, 21 February 2021
| Updated: 08:28, 22 February 2021
A dog owner who caused an internet sensation after giving her 45kg Tibetan mastiff away has broken her silence to plead: 'Don't judge me'.
The story of giant Simba want viral this week after the RSPCA revealed the dog had been adopted by a teenager - who had neglected to tell her shocked mother.
The woman only discovered the family's new addition when she found Simba in her living room.
But Simba's original owner has now come forward to say she gave her beloved pet away with the best of intentions, and had been hoodwinked by the teen.
The woman, who wished to remain anonymous, described how she was 'completely taken in' by the caring nature of the teenager.
After asking for £500 for her beloved pet, the original owner decided to give him away for free as she didn't want to profit from letting him go.
She was also convinced by the teen's knowledge of animals and willingness to care for the dog's ailments.
In a text message conversation between the two parties seen by KentOnline, Simba's first owner stated she wanted to get two lumps on Simba's front leg examined before rehoming him.
However, the teen said she "would be more than willing" to take him to a vets to get the growths examined. She also described the lumps as 'benign.'
The original owner said: "I know better than to give him away so he was advertised for sale.
"I could have easily made a profit from Simba with all the offers, but I just wanted him to have a good home, so when I was convinced by the lady I then told her I didn't want any money.
"I know what it involves having a pet and as a puppy when we got him we were in a better position. Not that I need to explain myself."
She described how the teen sent photos of where the pooch would be sleeping and came across as 'very knowledgeable' about dogs.
The RSPCA used the case to remind people of the importance of using reputable charities to re-home pets they could no longer care for.
Images showed how the seven-year-old hound was underweight, had matted fur with an abscess on his leg when RSPCA inspector Kirsten Ormerod collected him from a home on February 6.
She added: "It was only after I advertised him that I found the lumps. I told her I would take him to the vets first and get him sorted as it wouldn't be fair.
"She said she was willing to take him as he is and get him treated at her vets with the money she would have used to buy him.
"I took him to the house, no suspicions and even messaged her that evening and following morning to see how he settled and her reply was "perfect."
"Less than an hour later I had a call from the RSPCA saying he had been handed in. I was heartbroken.
"Don't judge me by this story, we all love Simba very much and just wanted him to have a happy forever home.
"I did all of the necessary checks but unfortunately I was lied to and feel awful for it."
RSPCA pet welfare expert Dr Samantha Gaines said: "We're really concerned about the possible surge in the number of dogs being rehomed over coming months as a result of coronavirus.
"We fear that families may be forced to make heartbreaking decisions due to financial difficulties as a result of the pandemic and may end up in a situation where they need to relinquish their pet to a rescue charity or may even feel they have no choice but to abandon their pet.
"We also have serious concerns about all of the 'pandemic pets' that have been bought during lockdown while families were based at home and had more time on their hands.
"We fear that as life begins to return to normal and people return to work they may feel they no longer have time for their pets or cannot cope with behavioural issues that arise out of a change in routine and we may see more animals being relinquished, abandoned or given away online.
"We understand that circumstances change and, sometimes, families are forced to make difficult decisions for their pets.
"If you need to rehome your pet we'd urge you never to advertise them 'free to a good home' online but, instead, to seek help or support from a reputable charity or rescue centre who can help guarantee that your pet finds a new home that meets their needs."