A devoted animal lover who pleaded guilty to ill-treating animals underwent grief counselling after two dogs in his care died.
Bill Siddells was in the dock in Wellington District Court today and pleaded guilty to three charges of ill-treating animals.
He had already paid about $10,000 in various costs to the dog owners and for his own grief counselling. In court he was ordered to pay $200 lawyer's fee to the SPCA which prosecuted him.
Siddells was caring for six dogs, including one of his own, when two of the dogs fought while out walking. When he returned home he separated the dogs and three of them were tethered on leads about 70cm long, without water in a windowed area. No windows were open but a door was ajar about 3cm.
A Chinese crested hairless dog was already dead when Siddells woke from his nap on March 12. He rushed two others to a veterinary clinic in a critical condition.
A labrador died later and another dog survived after extensive veterinary care.
Siddells, who had done voluntary work for the SPCA and was part of a therapy programme taking dogs into hospitals and homes, needed grief counselling.
Judge Susan Thomas said he had paid for the vet fees, airfares for the owners of one of the dogs to return from Australia where they had been on holiday, and a new dog. Along with his own grief counselling and doctor's visits, she estimated Siddells had already paid about $10,000 as a result of what happened to the dogs.
He had offered an unspecified emotional harm payment to one of the owners but it had been rejected as too low, the judge said.
She ordered him to pay a $200 solicitor's fee to the SPCA which prosecuted him.
The judge said she had a large number of testimonials about Siddells, his character and his treatment of animals, including from a vet who had known him for 20 years and said he would be happy for Siddells to look after his animals.
SPCA prosecutor Liz Hall had asked for Siddells to be disqualified indefinitely from looking after other people's animals but Judge Thomas said she was not satisfied that was needed. No disqualification was imposed.
Siddells had made a tragic mistake and she had no doubt he would not make that mistake again.
He had already suffered enormously personally and financially, the judge said.
Ms Hall said the SPCA was not unsympathetic to Siddells position but he had the care of too many dogs and had not managed it well.
Siddells' lawyer, Helen Croft, said four dog owners still wanted Siddells to care for their animals.
Judge Thomas said she had seen weather graphs for the day the dogs died and in the morning the temperature had been about 12C and it had been raining. But after the dogs were tethered and Siddells fell asleep the temperature rose to 20C, and the temperature in the room and the UV radiation rose significantly.
Siddells, a retired man, had been working privately as a dog sitter and part time for an agency Pet Angels.
The judge said she accepted Siddells was a devoted animal lover all his life and had been looking after the dogs of friends and acquaintances for many years.
SPCA spokesman Brett Lahman said the SPCA accepted the judge's decision.
It was a tragic case for the people involved and the animals that suffered pain and distress, he said.
Mr Lahman wanted it to serve as a warning for people to be extra vigilant when the warmer weather arrived.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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