Senseless violence and willful neglect top SPCA's annual List of Shame
A puppy beaten while witnesses stood by is just one of the harrowing cases of animal abuse on SPCA’s List of Shame this year.
The full list, released today ahead of SPCA’s Annual Appeal, reveals the details of the 12 worst cases of abuse, abandonment and neglect seen by SPCA in the last 12 months.
Cases include a dog blinded from being thrown against a wall, an animal hoarder who kept 32 cats in squalid conditions, a neglected pony left to become lame in both front feet, a starved horse close to death, a dog stabbed by the owner’s intoxicated friend, and multiple home surgery jobs gone wrong.
SPCA’s CEO, Andrea Midgen, says, “Every year, we release this list and every year we are confronted by the sad truth that animal abuse is still a big problem in our society. A tremendous amount of work still needs to be done to protect our precious animals and educate the public. This year’s list includes many instances of neglect and senseless violence, with owners failing to show the care and kindness their animals deserve.”
Every year, over 40,000 animals come through SPCA’s doors, most with sad tales of abuse, neglect and abandonment. As a charity, SPCA needs $43million annually to operate and with little government funding, SPCA receives most of these funds through public donations. As SPCA’s largest fundraiser approaches, the organisation is encouraging New Zealanders to get behind them during Annual Appeal week from March 2 to 8.
“We rely on the generous donations of the public to keep doing what we do. No matter how small your donation, every dollar makes a difference to the lives of thousands of animals who deserve a second chance. Every New Zealander who offers their support is helping us in our fight for justice,” says Midgen.
The face of this year’s Annual Appeal is Cooper, a puppy beaten by his owner repeatedly for nine minutes in front of children. He was thrown against a wall and beaten so hard with a broom that the handle broke. The attack was caught on CCTV video footage and the owner was charged with ill-treatment of his dog and disqualified from owning animals.
The Inspector who rescued Cooper said that her ‘heart hurt’ when she saw the footage.
“It was such a brutal and prolonged beating, and there seemed to be no reason for it. We decided the best way to remove Cooper from that situation was with a search warrant issued by the courts. We got the case across the line using the footage and managed to take Cooper away from the awful situation he was in,” says the Inspector.
Cooper was surrendered to SPCA’s Tauranga Centre and subsequently adopted to a loving family.
“The best part about this case is that Cooper now lives with people who love and cherish him, which is everything that he deserves,” says the Inspector.
Midgen says, “The violence towards animals we see every year in communities across New Zealand is abhorrent and must not be tolerated. Through the incredible work of our Inspectors, we can save animals and educate Kiwis, but we do need help. This is our biggest annual fundraiser and we’re hopeful that a significant portion of our financial need will be met through this year’s Annual Appeal.”
You can get involved in this year’s SPCA Annual Appeal by donating to street collectors around the country from Friday 6th to Sunday 8th March 2020, or online at: www.spca.nz
SPCA List of Shame
SPCA List of Shame
2019 was a particularly cruel year for some of New Zealand's animals, with SPCA Inspectors seeing many cases of intense neglect and senseless violence. This List of Shame shares the stories of the animals who were subjected to cruelty and the Inspectors who saved them.
“The man could be seen hitting the dog with a pole, crushing it with his body, and swinging it by a rope.
As an animal lover, watching the footage made my heart hurt. It was such a brutal and prolonged beating, and there seemed to be no reason for it. It was distressing watching what he was going through and hearing his cries. As an SPCA Inspector I knew I had a job to do.
The best part of course was that Cooper went on to find a fantastic new family, who love and cherish him!” - SPCA Inspector Anna
After obtaining CCTV footage of a man beating puppy Cooper in his backyard, SPCA Inspectors executed a search warrant and seized him from his owner. In SPCA’s care Cooper learnt to love people. While he still shies from broom handles and is a little unsure of men he’s never met, Cooper is living happily with his new family and loves nothing more than swimming at the beach.
Cooper’s previous owner was prosecuted and disqualified from owning animals.
“This case involved a young man that had become annoyed with a small dog named Rafa. He picked Rafa up and threw him in a rugby pass motion, causing Rafa to hit a wall.
Rafa’s eye prolapsed, he suffered extreme pain, and permanent loss of vision in one eye.
What sticks out to me in this case is the high level of violence that was inflicted on such a small animal. Thankfully Rafa was not owned by the offender and he was able to continue to be cared for and very much loved by his family.” - SPCA Inspector Jason
The defendant and his girlfriend were caring for Rafa, who belonged to the girlfriend’s mother. In a moment of anger the defendant picked Rafa up, carried him down the hallway and threw him forcibly into a bedroom. The defendant admitted his actions to an SPCA Inspector, saying the dog was “preventing him from relaxing”.
The defendant was prosecuted, fined and disqualified from owning animals.
“We found a young Arabian filly in a paddock with absolutely no feed available to her. Her body condition score was 0/5 and she was close to death.
When I seized her, she was so skinny that she was literally lifted onto a horse truck by two men. She didn’t have a name, so I called her Elle.
After months of slowly and safely feeding her she looked fantastic and galloped around the paddocks, playing with the other horses in our care. Nothing made me happier than the point where Elle started to really improve and get to the point where we knew she would make it.” - SPCA Inspector Sam
When responding to a complaint about horses contained in paddocks with no grazeable pasture and heavy faecal contamination, SPCA Inspectors found filly Elle, who was very emaciated. The defendant did not comply with instruction to ensure his horses were given adequate feed and shelter – and on a follow-up visit, Elle was seized. A vet concluded that her poor body condition was due to a lack of proper food. The defendant was prosecuted and fined.
In SPCA’s care Elle flourished. She spent time with a foster family who subsequently fell in love and adopted her.
“A sweet, elderly dog named Skipper was stabbed with a filleting knife by an intoxicated friend of the dog’s owner. I arrived the morning after the event. Skipper had received emergency surgery in the night and had a large wound that was stitched up across his shoulder area. He looked miserable.
I took a statement from Skippers owner and seized a large knife that was covered in Skippers blood and had bit of his fur stuck in it. Luckily Skipper had a dedicated owner who spend a large amount of time and money nursing Skipper back to health.
Skipper was lucky to live. Although he is physically well now, he understandably has some trust issues.” - SPCA Inspector Sam
The defendant and his friend, Skipper’s owner, had been drinking alcohol together. Skipper’s owner heard the dog yelp and found the defendant bent over Skipper holding a filleting knife. Skipper had been stabbed and blood was pooling on the floor. He needed surgery to repair the wound, pain relief and antibiotics.
The defendant was sentenced to supervision, community work and disqualified from owning dogs.
5. Cat Hoarder
“We investigated and found an excessive number of cats ranging throughout the property. Several cats were located with access to the main dwelling, and others were confined through caged enclosures. All the enclosures were heavily littered in faces, urine and soiled bedding. Foreign objects were littered amongst the cats’ living spaces.
Many of the cats had numerous health issues including missing eyes and eye and nose discharge. They were malnourished, sneezing, had poor grooming and weren’t socialised. The defendant disclosed she didn’t live at the address, but said she gave the cats food and water daily.
When the defendant failed to cooperate, a search warrant was executed on the property where we seized 32 cats.” - SPCA Inspector Andre
Sadly, after vet examination, several cats were found to have serious health concerns and had to be euthanised – all others were adopted to new families. A veterinary pathologist found that most of the cats had a thin body condition, and clinical signs of upper respiratory disease, leading to stress, discomfort and pain.
This investigation was lengthy and involved a team of SPCA staff including multiple Inspectors, vets, nurses and feline team members.
The defendant was sentenced to supervision, fined and disqualified from owning cats.
“Zeus lay in his cage, his frame wasted away and curled in a ball that was far too small for a husky. As I approached the cage, he was trying to look at me, but massive growths obstructed his vision. His features were so distorted by huge tumours, that were it not for the tell-tale husky coat, I could not have told you what breed of dog it was. Lines of thick drool hung from his mouth and I could smell the rot and infection.
I finally managed to get the owner to understand Zeus’s suffering, and agree to euthanasia. In my opinion, it was the kindest thing he had done for Zeus in a long, long time.” - SPCA Inspector Gina
Zeus was found roaming and picked up by an Animal Control Officer, who alerted SPCA of his condition. An immediate veterinary examination found a large cancerous mass located in Zeus’ muzzle, and another cancerous mass in his mouth.
When interviewed by an SPCA Inspector, the defendant said his own vet had recommended euthanasia almost two years earlier, but he’d declined because he couldn’t afford it and because of his attachment to Zeus. He admitted he knew Zeus had been losing weight, begun to smell and believed he was in pain.
The defendant was sentenced to community work and disqualified from owning dogs.
“Spencer’s owner used bands to dock his tail when he was four months old. The bands did not cut the tail cleanly, the skin shrunk up exposing 3cm of raw flesh and the tail bone was visible and exposed beyond that flesh. Thimble was in constant and considerable pain.
Fortunately for Spencer, the remaining tail stump was long enough that SPCA vets were able to surgically remove the damaged and infected tissue. With pain relief and treatment, he healed well and was eventually adopted to a really great family.
For me this case really highlighted how people who have been doing this a particular way all their lives and think they know what they are doing, can still cause a great amount of pain and suffering to their animals. This was a terrible situation that an animal should never be subjected to.
This case was special as the owner received an indefinite disqualification, meaning he will need to apply for the disqualification to be lifted instead of it automatically timing out. It felt fantastic that the courts recognised the pain and suffering that Specner had gone through.” - SPCA Inspector Kerri
A veterinary behaviourist noted that Spencer showed behaviours of ‘learned helplessness’ from being in prolonged pain that he could not get away from. He showed fearfulness and lack of confidence. Once recovered and adopted, Thimble thrived.
The defendant received an indefinite disqualification from owning or exercising authority over animals and was sentenced to community work.
“By chance, during an inspection at a rural property two other SPCA Inspectors and I came across a young tabby cat we named Morehu stuck in a leg-hold trap. His paw, where it was caught, had swollen so much it was clear he’d been in the trap for some time. He was absolutely terrified, wild-eyed and trying to get away.
For a young cat, to be caught in a trap and then drag it for hours would have been unbelievably traumatic. Cats are such stoic creatures, but Morehu’s fear was obvious to us all. Seeing him go from that horrible state to a purring, happy, three-legged family cat is the kind of transformation that makes this job so incredibly rewarding.” - SPCA Inspector Pip
Unfortunately, despite public appeals for information, the person responsible for Morehu’s case was not found. This case is a reminder that the use of leg-hold traps in New Zealand causes serious injuries to domestic animals. It happens far too often and it’s not acceptable. In 2019 SPCA investigated cases involving these restricted traps in communities across the country including in Auckland, Christchurch, Wairarapa, Taupo and New Plymouth.
9. Toppa and Winnie
“We received information about a horse who was under the care of a horse rescue. Another Inspector and I visited the address and were shocked when we discovered a horse known as Winnie.
Winnie was the skinniest horse I had ever seen in my career. Every one of his rib, spine and hip bones were visible and he had a large wound on the top of his wither. Winnie was removed from the care of the horse rescue upon the advice of a veterinarian. The owner of the horse rescue had informed us that she had not sought veterinary treatment/advice for the horse, despite Winnie being under her care for a number of months.
A few months later we received another call about a pony under the care of this same horse rescue and found Toppa in appalling conditions. He was in underweight condition and very reluctant to walk because his hooves were so overgrown. A veterinarian was called out to assess Toppa’s condition and deemed it necessary for him to be humanely euthanised to end the prolonged pain and distress he had been suffering. Toppa had been under the care of the owner of the horse rescue for a number of years and was known to have hoof issues but no appropriate treatment was sought.” - SPCA Inspector Melissa
Winnie made a full recovery after lots of love and care and SPCA receives regular happy updates from his new owners. The owner of the horse rescue was sentenced to community detention, community work and disqualified from owning or being in charge of any animals.
“This case began after a fight between flatmates. The defendant confronted his flatmates, accusing them of stealing his property and ordered them to leave the address. While they were packing up their belongings, they placed their dogs Turbo and Nova into the same car. They returned to the car to discover the defendant had slit the throat of Turbo with a knife and then attempted to slit the throat of Nova.
Turbo died at the scene and Nova fortunately survived after receiving immediate vet treatment.
SPCA then began an investigation. It was one of the toughest and most serious cases I have attended and one of the most serious acts of cruelty on to an innocent animal. I had to remove the body of Turbo from the scene to be necropsied. It was horrific seeing how severe and graphic the injury was and having to take his body from the arms of his traumatised and heartbroken owners. The necropsy confirmed Turbo would have suffered an extreme level of pain and distress.” - SPCA Inspector Lori
The defendant was sentenced to imprisonment (relating to charges from both SPCA and Police) and disqualified from owning animals.
11. Bella and Brusier
“I was investigating a case where a dog named Bella had a terrible injury. She had a wound on her snout, between her eye and nose, that was so deep you could see her skull.
Bella’s owner had taken her to a vet once after the injury occurred but had not been able to provide the ongoing treatment she needed. I seized Bella and took her for urgent veterinary care. She had a surgery to clean and close the wound.
Then, while Bella was recovering in SPCA care, we received a report regarding a second dog named Bruiser from the same owner. Bruiser was scarred, had fresh and healing wounds all over her. The defendant confirmed that Bruiser had been injured and he’d used a stapler on her wound – not seeking any vet care. So I seized her too.” - SPCA Inspector Sam
Bella and Bruiser both thrived in SPCA care and were adopted to new loving families. The defendant was sentenced to a short term of imprisonment and disqualified from owning pets.
“As Bobby was brought out of the kennel, I noticed the thick green discharge from his eyes, the sharp juts of his shoulder blades and spine, the flies and the smell. And then, as he came out into the light – I saw his rear leg.
It seemed that the leg ended in a swollen, bloody stump. I wondered if he had previously suffered a traumatic injury that amputated his foot – I could see no toes or claws. Pockets of pus and maggots pitted the surface. I took him to my truck, and immediately to the vet, who discovered cancer in his leg that was so advanced, some of the bones had been eaten away.
Bobby was euthanised as soon as possible. We couldn’t mitigate his suffering, which was immense.” - SPCA Inspector Gina
A vet assessed that the mass on Bobby’s leg would have started as a small painful mass on the toe, and grew slowly. When interviewed, the couple who owned Bobby said they noticed he had a sore foot and was losing weight, and that they had used traditional Chinese medicine as a treatment and thought this had improved the leg.
The couple were disqualified from owning animals and ordered to each pay a fine.