What has been described as New Zealand's worst pet cruelty case may not be over, with the Woodville husband-and-wife cat-and-dog breeding team convicted of animal cruelty refusing to rule out an appeal.
Six months after their lengthy trial, David and Daryl Balfour were yesterday ordered to pay fines of $25,000 to the SPCA in the Palmerston North District Court.
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 couple would also have to pay the prosecution's court costs, with that amount to be agreed by lawyers from both sides.
The Balfours were found guilty on three animal cruelty charges dating from March 7, 2007, when their property was raided by SPCA.
The maximum penalty for each of these crimes is a $25,000 fine or six months' imprisonment.
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 found not guilty of ill-treating dogs. The raid uncovered 161 cats and 87 dogs living in poor conditions.
It was revealed yesterday that the Balfours had applied to be discharged without conviction.
David Balfour's lawyer Eric Forster said his client had suffered enough and any sentence would put the punishment for the crimes out of proportion.
A conviction would mean David Balfour would be unlikely to pick up work in his previous fields as a teacher, social worker or counsellor, he said.
He had suffered financially from not being able to own and breed animals since the raid, and had received hate mail, death threats and media criticism, Mr Forster said.
Daryl Balfour's lawyer Jock Turnbull said his client also suffered public embarrassment and loss of income, as well as difficulties unique to her situation. She worked in the medical profession, and a criminal conviction would see her lose her job, Mr Turnbull said.
She could also be in danger of being deported if she was given a prison sentence as she was not a New Zealand citizen, he said.
But Judge Grant Fraser threw out their applications. There was no evidence of the Balfours losing or being barred from employment, or that Daryl Balfour could be deported, he said.
Any public scrutiny of the Balfours or loss of income from their breeding operation was simply part of being found guilty of their crimes.
"There can be no doubt that this is serious offending of its type," Judge Fraser said.
Both lawyers referred to the SPCA's "allegations" around animal abuse, which Judge Fraser said was "indicative that neither of [the Balfours] accept the findings of the court".
Speaking outside of court, SPCA lead inspector Jim Boyd said he was happy the couple could not own any more animals.
"I believe they have clearly demonstrated that they have not the ability or aptitude to properly look after anything besides the minimal amount of animals.
"Frankly, I would have concerns about them having a goldfish."
He said it was "highly likely" the Balfours would appeal.
David Balfour would not say for certain whether there would be an appeal.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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