List of shame starts Wellington SPCA campaign

KERRY MCBRIDE
Last updated 05:00 05/11/2012
SPCA CEO Iain Torrance
DIEGO OPATOWSKI/Fairfax NZ

SAD BUT TRUE: SPCA chief executive Iain Torrance says abuse and neglect are common occurrences.

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Starved and beaten dogs, abandoned cats, inhumanely-killed possums and 28 dead sparrows make up Wellington SPCA's list of shame.

Released as part of the SPCA's annual Paws Appeal fundraising week, which starts today, the list details the worst animal welfare cases the charity has dealt with over the past 12 months.

Family pets not being given adequate food or healthcare made up six of the 14 cases, while dumped cats and acts of deliberate animal cruelty also featured.

In July, 12-year-old Cannons Creek boy Damon Boyer-Marwood saved a small terrier cross dog that was being beaten and kicked by a group of boys. The dog suffered extensive bruising but recovered and was returned to her owner.

Also in July, Brent Lyall Still, of Upper Hutt, became the first person to be charged with entrapping an animal without reasonable excuse after he set 40 illegal leg hold traps on two Makara properties. Thirteen possums were caught and died. Mr Still had to pay a $300 fine and $400 in court costs, and the judge commented that it showed even pests deserved to be killed humanely.

In August, Eric Rauhiri Martin, of Upper Hutt, was convicted of failing to alleviate pain and distress in his dog Bronx, after the dog's leg was broken and dislocated. Bronx was euthanased as the pain was too great, and Martin was arrested after nine months and a police warrant - believed to be the first time a warrant was issued in Wellington for animal welfare charges.

SPCA chief executive Iain Torrance said the cases were quite typical of what their inspectors encountered every year.

"The general neglect and direct abuse cases are the sort of things that have been around for a long time, and unfortunately I expect we will probably still see in the future."

Taking animal welfare cases to court was an expensive process for the charity, but was essential to show that animal abuse would not go ignored, Mr Torrance said.

"We are one of the few approved organisations who can actually do something about it. For us it's highlighting what is going on in the Wellington region and what we're doing about it.

"But the really disappointing thing is that so many of these are avoidable. If you really look at it, every single one is avoidable."

The SPCA was receiving more calls from members of the public reporting instances of animal neglect or abuse, which was encouraging, Mr Torrance said.

"There is a greater sense of social responsibility now. I think people are more willing to stand up and say that no, this isn't right. People are also trusting that the SPCA will take them seriously and do something about it."

While animal welfare sentences could be toughened up considerably, the court system was becoming more understanding of animal welfare cases, he said.

THE DOMESTIC VIOLENCE LINK

Research showing that half of all female victims of domestic violence had witnessed animal cruelty, has been highlighted in this year's national SPCA list of shame.

The ‘Pets as Pawns' study showed that 50 per cent of women surveyed had witnessed animal cruelty as part of their experience of domestic violence.

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Incidents included:

Hawke's Bay: Dannevirke dairy farmer Grant Teahan found guilty and fined on two charges of trapping and painting harrier hawks then releasing them.

Taranaki: Waitara man Phillip Hall used a backyard as a cat cemetery. Hall trapped the cats as a "hobby" then drowned them in a water-filled rubbish bin.

Manawatu: Woodville husband-and-wife cat-and-dog breeder David and Daryl Balfour sentenced in the country's biggest pet cruelty case, for keeping 161 cats and 87 dogs in extreme circumstances.

Auckland: In Wellsford Tony Campbell and Russell Mendoza shot 33 dogs and puppies one by one. Some died a slow painful death, while others struggled to hide from their killers.

North Canterbury: Jason Godsiff, 20, bludgeoned 25 seals and newborn pups to death with a metal pipe near Kaikoura.

- The Dominion Post

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