A husband-and-wife cat-and-dog breeding team have been sentenced in what has been described as New Zealand's biggest pet cruelty case.
After a lengthy trial David and Daryl Balfour were ordered to pay fines of $12,500 each to the SPCA by Judge Grant Fraser in the Palmerston North District Court on Friday afternoon.
They were also disqualified from owning any cats, dogs, puppies of kittens for the next 20 years, except for any animals they already owned.
The Woodville couple would also have to pay the prosecution's court costs, with that amount to be agreed to be lawyers from either side.
The Balfours had earlier been found guilty on three animal cruelty charges dating from August 2006 to March 7, 2007.
They couple were found guilty on one charge each of failing to prevent suffering for dogs and cats, and one of ill-treating cats, but were not guilty of ill- treating dogs.
SPCA inspectors raided their Heretaunga Rd property, between Dannevirke and Woodville, on March 5, 2007, and found 161 cats and 87 dogs living in poor conditions.
Years of legal wrangling about the admissibility of evidence meant the Balfours' trial did not get under way until this year. Evidence was heard over 30 days and ran to 2657 pages.
The Balfours had admitted that conditions on their farm were hard in 2006/7 and that many cats were diseased, but maintained they were treating the outbreaks of sickness.
They had been visited by MAF inspectors in August, 2006, and David Balfour had said he would make improvements around the property.
But as disease took hold, the improvements stopped.
During the trial, SPCA inspectors spoke of finding animals in dingy accommodation and of being confronted with an overwhelming smell of urine.
But the Balfours said the SPCA brought "ring-in'' animals and "staged'' photos to make the situation look bad.
Judge Fraser said he rejected that contention outright. His hefty judgment says, however, that many aspects of the charges laid could not be proven, especially with the dogs.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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