Drop in cruelty cases welcomed
A dramatic drop in the number of animal cruelty complaints in Manawatu in the past year may be linked to a string of high-profile prosecutions for breaches of animal welfare laws.
The South Island hosted the highest rate of animal cruelty complaints in New Zealand in 2012, figures supplied by the Ministry for Primary Industries show.
While the West Coast was dogged by complaints at a rate of one for every thousand people, the number of complaints in the Manawatu-Whanganui region had halved since the previous year.
No cases of deliberate animal torture were brought to the Manawatu SPCA’s attention last year and the number of complaints to the ministry dropped off, from 67 in 2010 and 68 in 2011, to just 30 reports last year.
‘‘It’s good to be working in an area that’s cleaning up its act,’’ Manawatu SPCA manager Danny Auger said.
The Manawatu branch of the SPCA had brought nine cases of animal cruelty to the courts in the past year, three of them still pending.
The media coverage of some of the cases may have provided a cautionary tale to would-be animal abusers, Mr Auger said.
‘‘The SPCA is taking on a lot more court cases, with a lot more media coverage,’’ he said.
‘‘I think that people who [have been] cruel to animals are receiving more media attention than there used to be and there has been some steep sentences dealt out recently.
"People may be seeing the consequences of those actions and maybe seeing it’s not a good thing to do. Whatever the case, we see this as a positive thing.’’
The three cases yet to be concluded in the Palmerston North District Court include a dog whose owner had allegedly refused to seek treatment for cancerous wounds that had become infected, a case of a ‘‘skinny dog’’ that had been under-nourished, and a goat owner facing fines for failing to seek treatment for his animal’s foot wounds.
In 2012, the MPI received a total of 451 complaints of cruelty to animals nationwide. The West Coast, Southland and Canterbury led the list of shame.
The SPCA’s own figures show it had also fielded a quarter fewer complaints last year, receiving about 200 in 2011, down to 150 in 2012.