A Hamilton dairy farmer who filmed his dogs viciously attacking a wounded pig in a training exercise and posted it on YouTube has won a discharge without conviction, angering animal rights activists.
But the SPCA has issued a warning to other hunters, saying it would be chasing down more examples of the sort of training material he was using.
Logan Joel Dawson, 24, pleaded guilty to four charges laid by the SPCA under the Animal Welfare Act related to the attack in March 2011, with a further two dismissed.
Dawson filmed the attack - or his training session - on the pig and loaded the video entitled "Pigsty Carnage" on YouTube.
The wild boar had earlier been caught by Dawson and held at his Horsham Downs property for several months until the incident.
The footage shows Dawson holding the boar by its back legs as the dogs attack it.
The animal is then stabbed, and bleeds profusely as the dogs continue their attack. It is finally killed when its throat is cut.
The charges of encouraging the dogs to attack the boar were a first for the SPCA.
Arguing for a discharge without conviction for Dawson, lawyer Thomas Sutcliffe described his client's actions as that of an "inexperienced, naive hunter" who had no idea what he was doing was illegal. Dawson, who is married, had hopes of one day owning his own farm and seeing other farm practices around the world.
However, in Dawson's words, a conviction would be the "kiss of death" to his career.
Mr Sutcliffe also had a dig at media coverage, saying "he's not the sort of person to make a public villain out of". "When faced with the fact his actions were illegal, he pleaded guilty right away."
Judge Rosemary Riddell agreed a conviction would be disproportionate to the offending which she described as "gory".
"Clearly pig hunting is not for the fainthearted . . . but your actions did cause fear [for the pig]."
Dawson had inadvertently stabbed the boar in the lungs and not the heart.
However, Judge Riddell said the practice was different from the torture or maiming of domestic animals. She said had Dawson carried out the attack in the wild he wouldn't have been prosecuted, and she expected the whole experience would have been a "salutory lesson" for him.
But outside court, SPCA northern region manager Sue Baudet disputed Judge Riddell's comments and said it was still a legal requirement to humanely kill an animal - no matter what the environment.
"The law is very clear and even in the capacity of somebody hunting in the wild is obligated to ensure that the animal is killed humanely. So if he were to do a similar on other side of the fence [in the wild] we would still be pursuing this. It's worth it - this sends a message out there that we're not going to tolerate this and anybody who is keeping pigs captive for purpose of training dogs we will be vigorously pursuing."
She was unaware there was "training material" readily available, online or otherwise, which Dawson said he had viewed, leading him to think what he did was normal.
"I haven't read the material; I will be reading it, it does concern me that there is material out there that would encourage young men, or women, to keep pigs captive and use them as a training tool.
"So we will be pursuing that."
Craig Dunn, co-founder of Paw Justice, described the decision as "disgusting".
"By 24 you've got a good sense of right and wrong.
"What type of message are you sending? Showing other people you can do this type of thing and get away with it?
"It's very disappointing."
Joshua Kauta, 64, an Opotiki pig dog trainer of 50 years, said dogs should be trained out in the wild and incidents like this only gave hunters a bad image.
"That's just not training at all. Most pig hunters like to kill the pig quickly, we don't leave the pig to suffer."
Training dogs on a pig that was in captivity did not effectively train the dog at all, he said. Dawson should have been convicted, he said.
Dawson was ordered to pay costs of more than $8000 and to make a donation to the SPCA of $500.
- © Fairfax NZ News
Pals and playmates (pictures)
Reacting to a sudden cancellation
New Zealand's best deck built yesterday
Appreciating Tony Allen
The meaning of blogging