A Derby dog who was once described as one of the thinnest dogs the RSPCA had seen has been chosen as the face of the charity’s national fundraising campaign.

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Before and after photos of greyhound-saluki cross William will feature on a mailout which will land on hundreds of thousands of doormats across the country on Valentine’s Day. His story will also appear on the animal welfare charity’s social media channels, reaching millions of people.

William was rescued in September 2015 when he was aged just five months old, after being starved by his previous owners for four months.

Photos taken at the time show a weak William curled up, with every bone in his body visible. Due to his malnutrition, he could not stand unaided and had to be carried around in a towel. He weighed just 3kg – instead of the 10kg he should have weighed at that age – and was in such a bad way that he was close to death.

After weeks of recovery, in January 2016 William was adopted by Derby couple Rachel Butler and Chris Mallett, who live in the Castleward area of the city.William1.jpg

Sarah Vickery, a fundraising marketing manager at the RSPCA, said: “We found the case of William to be an inspiring and emotive story that provides a powerful insight for our supporters into our work and enables them to engage with our cause at a personal level.

“We see cases like William all too often sadly but it really touched our hearts with the harrowing images and amazing care he received at one of our centres.”

Rachel, who works as a press officer for the RSPCA, said: “William has made an amazing recovery. If you look at him today, you wouldn’t think that he went through what he did. We are very proud of all of the positive steps he makes.

“I was shown a copy of the mailout before it went out and it broke my heart to see photos of him when he was first taken into the RSPCA’s care. It is hard to believe that he is the same dog in the photos. His story is so strong that it still strikes a chord with people now, a year after he has recovered.

“He has such a happy life now and is always the centre of attention, wherever we go – particularly when we take him to Darley Park every weekend! In October last year, he was pageboy at our wedding, so it is very apt that his story features in a campaign which falls on Valentine’s Day.”

In January 2016, a man and a woman from Coventry were disqualified from keeping animals for life after they pleaded guilty to causing unnecessary suffering to William.

Birmingham Magistrates’ Court heard that they bought William on impulse after seeing him advertised for sale online, but that they had not done any research on how much to feed a puppy. The court heard that William was being fed one small pouch of puppy food a day – a small fraction of what a growing puppy should be eating.

As well as the lifetime ban, they were also each sentenced to a 12-week prison sentence, suspended for 12 months, ordered to pay total costs of £1,779 and to do 35 hours of unpaid work each.

To help the RSPCA look after animals like William text LOVE to 87023 to give £3 (text costs £3 + one standard network rate message) or visit www.rspca.org.uk/give.