Dog owner sentenced for starving her pet

SKIN AND BONE: Misty, weighing 11kg, in Te Kuiti.
SKIN AND BONE: Misty, weighing 11kg, in Te Kuiti.

A King Country beneficiary has become the first person to receive a custodial sentence for failing to provide for her dog.

The dog in question, Misty, was starved to nearly half of her normal weight.

Luana Adams was yesterday sentenced to three and half months home detention, disqualified from owning an animal for five years and ordered to pay vet and prosecution costs of $1993 via $10 weekly instalments.

Adams, 40, had earlier pleaded guilty to two charges brought by Te Kuiti SPCA of failing to provide food and water or adequate shelter for Misty, a white and tan crossbreed.

The maximum penalty for the offences is a year in prison and/or a $50,000 fine.

Speaking to the Waikato Times after yesterday's Te Kuiti District Court hearing, Pro bono SPCA prosecutor Neil Wells said it was a New Zealand first under the strengthened Animal Welfare Act 1999.

Until now the SPCA has only got terms of imprisonment for perpetrators of "heinous" offences such as wilfully ill-treating, wounding, killing and maiming.

He said Adams' defence counsel claimed Adams was remorseful and had to tie the dog up because it was annoying stock.

On May 7, at 11.30am, an SPCA field officer accompanied by a police constable went to an address near Waitomo, where they found two dogs.

One, a cream Labrador was free to roam and appeared to be well fed.

The other, Misty, was tied to the clothes line on the front lawn in full view of the women.

The dog was in "very poor condition".

"There had been a heavy frost that morning, the temperature was still cold and the dog was shivering. There was no kennel or any other form of shelter accessible." Ms Adams admitted ownership and said Misty was sick and needed to be shot.

The dog was either unable or unwilling to stand and had to be carried into the SPCA van. The dog was immediately taken to a vet, examined and found to be "extremely emaciated".

Her weight was 14.1kg whereas a normal weight for the dog should have been 25kg.

On the Purina body score she scored 1, which means that the ribs, lumbar vertebrae, pelvic bones and all bony prominences were evident from a distance.

"There was no discernible body fat and there was obvious loss of muscle mass.

"A rectal examination found that there were no faeces in the rectum and the stomach was empty. These are two indicators that the dog was starving due to malnutrition and had not eaten for some considerable time."

Misty was also tested for disease but none were found.

The dog was so dehydrated she was placed immediately on an intravenous drip. With intensive care she gained 3.6kg in the first week and was a normal weight of 24.4kg after a month in the care of an SPCA volunteer.

Waikato Times