Seized animals sick, dirty, stressed, Crown says

DAY IN COURT: Daryl Balfour is accused, alongside her husband David Balfour, of ill-treating animals.
DAY IN COURT: Daryl Balfour is accused, alongside her husband David Balfour, of ill-treating animals.

Confronted with an overwhelming smell of urine and excrement, an animal welfare inspector with more than 35 years experience was dry retching when he entered a cottage full of cats.

On March 5, 2007, the SPCA searched a Heretaunga Rd property between Woodville and Dannevirke, owned by David Neil Balfour, 62, and his wife Daryl Kirsty Reid Balfour, 50.

Inspectors found 161 cats and 87 dogs they allege were being ill-treated.

At the Palmerston North District Court yesterday, James Boyd, SPCA officer in charge of the case, said among the animals discovered four years ago were cats kept in a dimly lit and poorly ventilated cottage.

''The smell here was quite horrible ... I was retching. My eyes were stinging, my nasal passages were sore."

David and Daryl Balfour are each facing four charges – two of ill-treating animals and two of failing to prevent suffering.

The charges cover the period between August 23, 2006, and March 5 the following year. Both Balfours entered not guilty pleas to all charges at the start of their trial in front of Judge Grant Fraser.

In his opening statement, Crown prosecutor Paul Murray said the Balfours ran a dog and cat breeding operation on a property that was formerly a pig farm.

"The broad allegation is that the animals were housed in poor and unsanitary conditions. There was insufficient space, insufficient water, accumulated faeces and rubbish to unacceptable levels, food left uncovered [and] inadequate shelter, lighting and ventilation.

"It's alleged that the animals were exhibiting signs of disease and behaviour suggestive of problems associated with those conditions."

Some cats were housed in cages with over-flowing litter trays in poorly ventilated accommodation, with about half suffering from dehydration, and some having caught contagious diseases.

Other cats behaved in a feral manner, Mr Murray said.

Dogs on the Balfour property were kept in old pig pens, some with little light.

"The coats of some of the dogs confined to smaller areas were, it's alleged, wet with urine and some were matted with faecal matter."

Few dog cages had fresh drinking water, while exercise areas on the property appeared unused.

All the cats and 30 dogs were seized by the SPCA, with 81 cats having to be destroyed because of disease and feral behaviour.

"The Crown says there were simply too many animals for the accused to care for."

Defence lawyer Eric Forster, who is representing David Balfour, said the Crown could not prove allegations of ill-treatment and failure to prevent suffering.

Some animals were receiving treatment, while reasonable steps were taken to prevent sickness outbreaks, he said.

Mr Boyd told the court that on August 23, 2006, he and a Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry inspector visited the Balfours and made suggestions about how conditions could be improved, but no formal warning was issued.

After the search warrant was executed more than six months later, little had changed.

Throughout the day, the Balfours were busy scribbling notes, which were passed to their defence lawyers and, at times, shook their heads in disagreement as Mr Boyd spoke.

Defence lawyer Jock Turnbull, who is acting for Daryl Balfour, did not give an opening statement.

The trial is expected to finish next week.

Manawatu Standard