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SPCA prosecutes recidivist offender for failing to seek veterinary treatment for his sick dogs

18 March 2021
SPCA prosecutes recidivist offender for failing to seek veterinary treatment for his sick dogs

A Foxton man was sentenced yesterday after two dogs were found at his home in severe pain and in need of urgent medical treatment after months of suffering.

Ronald Ward was convicted in the Palmerston North District Court on two counts of ill-treating an animal causing it to suffer unreasonable or unnecessary pain or distress. He was sentenced to 5 months’ community detention, 6 months’ supervision, ordered to pay $1,658.85 in reparations and $500.00 towards legal costs. He was also disqualified from owning all animals for 10 years.

The man came to the attention of SPCA in December 2019 when SPCA Inspectors received information about the condition of two dogs, which were subsequently located on his property.

The first dog was a brown and tan, female Huntaway dog known as Wags. She had an obvious growth in her right ear with noticeable redness, discharge and thickening. The left ear was also showing obvious signs of disease.

The second dog was a black and white, female Shih Tzu dog known as Heidi. She was heavily matted over her entire body. Heidi’s eyes were not visible due to discharge and heavy matting and the pads of her feet were also not visible due to the level of matting. The SPCA Inspector noted a strong odour from Heidi. Both dogs were taken by the Inspector for immediate veterinary assessment.

The vet stated Heidi was severely underweight and both eyes were completely crusted over with severe, chronic corneal scarring. She was blind, multiple toenails were overgrown, mammary tumours were detected, she was suffering from severe constipation and matting and live fleas were located all over her body.

On examining Wags, the vet concluded that her ear condition was a chronic debilitating disease that would have caused severe pain over months to years. The changes noted in the ears were easily apparent and should have been obvious to any lay person many months ago. The disease is common in dogs and is manageable when diagnosed and treated by a veterinarian.

The defendant stated he knew problems existed with his dogs and was considering having Heidi euthanised in the future, and told the Inspector he was treating Wags himself.

The man was previously convicted for welfare offending in 2015. He was sentenced to 250 hours of community work and disqualified from owning animals for a period of seven years, but was given an exemption by the court of being allowed to own two animals – either domestic cats or dogs that he presently owned. In that particular case, he was prosecuted by MPI for reckless ill-treatment of animals, wilful treatment of animals and failing to meet the physical, health and behavioural needs of animals.

SPCA Chief Executive Andrea Midgen says this case shows the kind of negligence that is seen too much in New Zealand.

“Late last month we released our List of Shame to the public and it showed the total neglect and cruelty that New Zealanders are capable of,” she says.

“It’s heart-breaking and quite infuriating that these dogs had to suffer when their misery was entirely preventable. I can’t reiterate enough the importance of responsible pet ownership.

“Household pets are completely dependent on their owners for food, shelter, companionship, and treatment if they get injured or fall ill. If you own a pet, it is your responsibility to provide these fundamental things – if you fail to do so and we hear about, you could end up in court. It’s that simple.”

“The fact it’s his second time before the courts for very similar offending is just appalling.”

Heidi was humanely euthanised to end her suffering, while Wags is in SPCA custody and will require surgery on her ears before being prepared for adoption.

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