Canterbury couple convicted for ill-treating an animal & obstructing an SPCA Inspector
A Canterbury couple was sentenced by the Christchurch District Court yesterday after the woman did not follow veterinary recommendations for her terminally-ill cat, and the man obstructed and threatened SPCA Inspectors with physical violence.
Victoria McCartney, 55, was found guilty of ill-treatment of an animal causing it to suffer unreasonable or unnecessary pain or distress and failure to ensure that an animal received treatment that alleviated any unreasonable or unnecessary pain or distress being suffered. She was fined $3000, ordered to pay reparations of $4221.86, trial expert witness costs of $1500 and a contribution towards court costs and legal fees.
Darryl McCartney, 61, was found guilty of wilfully obstructing an SPCA Inspector in the exercise of the Inspector’s powers. He was fined $1500 and ordered to pay a contribution towards court costs and legal fees.
The case began on June 27, 2016 when the SPCA’s Canterbury centre received a call from a concerned veterinarian regarding a terminally ill Burmese cat called Michael, belonging to Victoria McCartney.
Michael was suffering from uncontrolled diabetes and pancreatitis, two very debilitating conditions. Pancreatitis is known to be an excruciatingly painful disease, and it was a veterinarian’s opinion that it was unlikely that Michael’s pain could be managed. Three veterinarians had tried to counsel the owner to euthanise Michael.
Victoria McCartney had sought veterinary treatment for Michael over the past 18 months, but had not always followed veterinary advice and instructions to mitigate the cat’s suffering. Against veterinary advice, she had elected to take Michael off his insulin on more than one occasion and had only purchased 20 days’ worth of the fluids Michael needed over the last five months.
Additionally, because Michael’s prognosis and quality of life were so poor, euthanasia had first been recommended by a veterinarian in February 2016 – five months before SPCA Inspectors became involved in the case. It had been recommended – and refused by the owner – at several subsequent re-examinations over the previous months.
After a veterinary specialist recommended euthanasia and the owner could not make this decision, and a euthanasia appointment with Michael’s regular veterinary practise was cancelled, the veterinarian involved became very concerned for the cat’s welfare and contacted the SPCA’s Canterbury centre.
Two SPCA Inspectors visited the McCartney’s home to inspect Michael. Darryl McCartney swore at the Inspectors and threatened them with physical violence.
Due to Darryl McCartney’s obstructive and threatening nature, SPCA Inspectors had to await police assistance. Once police arrived the couple had left the property and Michael could not be found.
The following day a search warrant was obtained and SPCA Inspectors seized Michael and a second cat Mary, who also had untreated health issues.
The veterinarian who assessed Michael was “devastated” at his condition. Michael was dehydrated, emaciated, had difficult standing and would stumble when he attempted to walk. His abdomen was painful, he had poorly controlled diabetes, chronic kidney failure and generalised, oozing, alopecia.
At the owner’s request, a fourth veterinarian examined Michael, who also agreed with the euthanasia recommendation. The owner’s second cat, Mary, had several obvious and progressive diseases which were causing her pain and suffering: untreated anal skin lesions, dental disease, cancer of the ears and a chronic, painful eye condition called entropion.
Michael was humanely euthanised by a veterinarian. Mary received treatment for her medical issues, including surgery on her ears and eye, and was returned to the owner.
“The SPCA understands that making the decision to euthanise your pet can be heart-breaking. But ultimately, as a pet owner, it is our responsibility to ensure that our animals are not suffering unnecessarily, and to follow the advice and treatment as recommended by a veterinarian,” says Andrea Midgen, SPCA CEO.
“Ignoring a veterinarian’s advice, taking your pet off their medication, and ultimately allowing them to endure unnecessary, prolonged pain and suffering is simply not okay.”
“We are very disappointed that our SPCA Inspectors needed to intervene in this case. But due to the unwillingness of the cat’s owner to follow veterinary recommendations, we were left with no other choice. The Animal Welfare Act 1999 dictates that we cannot leave an animal to suffer unreasonable pain and distress, and action must be taken to alleviate this – even if this means humane euthanasia is the only option.”
“Furthermore, it is completely unacceptable to threaten an SPCA Inspector with violence, to verbally abuse them, and to obstruct them when they are exercising their legal powers under the Animal Welfare Act 1999.”