Animal welfare inspectors are preparing to lay charges against a Manawatu farmer after 75 sheep were found dead and another 25 had to be put down because of alleged ill-treatment.
Photographs show emaciated animals with bones visible beneath their skin.
Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals chief inspector Charles Cadwallader said a file on the case was about to be sent to Crown Law. It was likely the farmer would be charged under the Animal Welfare Act.
SPCA officials raided the farm in August after being tipped off about the sheep. The 66-hectare farm is now under strict monitoring by vets and four SPCA inspectors. It is still being run by the farmer and has several hundred sheep.
The incident is the latest in a string of animal cruelty cases, including a puppy whose ears were cut off with scissors, a dog that was doused with petrol then set alight and 31 seals clubbed to death near Kaikoura. A kitten was found dead in Tauranga last week after being thrown against the owner's door.
Mr Cadwallader said the distressed sheep in the Manawatu case were shot dead by inspectors the day the property was visited. "You don't leave anything in that condition – they had to go."
He refused to name the farmer before charges were laid for fear of prejudicing the probable court case.
Charges were likely to include ill-treatment of animals and failure to provide for their physical health and behavioural needs. Each charge carries maximum penalties of a $50,000 fine and/or 12 months' jail.
Mr Cadwallader would not comment on how the 75 sheep died or how the 25 euthanased animals had come to be in such distress.
But the case was of sufficient scale to involve Crown Law solicitors and four animal inspectors, including two from the SPCA national office.
"A larger-scale farm disaster like that one is not something you can just take any SPCA inspector out and say, `Go and deal with that'.
"It's just sad really and no doubt the facts of the matter will be adduced at court."
The Manawatu case was revealed in the Wellington SPCA's annual report. It also showed that the organisation took four prosecutions in the last financial year, had two pending and paid out $10,500 in "rewards".
Wellington SPCA animal inspector Ritchie Dawson said some cases of animal neglect and wilful abuse were "totally horrific".
"Statistics show that in the United States people who injure or kill animals nine times out of 10 are already in the criminal system and do the same thing to humans.
"People that can dispatch that type of violence I don't think would just stop at an animal."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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