German Shepherd breeders banned following one of RNZSPCA’s largest prosecutions
Two German Shepherd breeders have been disqualified from owning animals for nine years, following one of the biggest prosecutions in the 150-year history of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) in New Zealand.
The defendants were found guilty of 32 charges brought under the Animal Welfare Act 1999, and were sentenced today following a three-week Judge alone trial at the Manukau District Court in January. The Judge’s verdict followed a costly and lengthy investigation by SPCA.
One of the defendants was sentenced to nine months' supervision and the other was sentenced to 12 months' supervision, 300 hours community work and judicial monitoring. The pair were also ordered to pay reparations of $40,000.
SPCA was contacted after concerns were raised about the welfare of many of the dogs housed at the breeding kennel the pair operated. When SPCA Inspectors first visited the large rural property, more than 60 dogs and puppies were discovered, many of which were tied up by short leashes and choker chains without access to water, shelter or behavioural enrichment.
For those that were housed inside or in kennel runs, the ground where they lay was covered in urine and faeces. The Inspectors described the smell as “unbearable” and said the waste had clearly been there for a long time, as it was inches thick. In one enclosure, there was such a buildup of faeces that the dogs were struggling to walk without skidding in their own filth.
“This is one of the most horrendous cases of neglect by breeders that our Inspectors have ever seen,” says SPCA Chief Executive Andrea Midgen. “The conditions these animals were kept in were absolutely appalling and we’re pleased to finally be able to see justice for the dogs and puppies that were so severely neglected by those that were meant to care for them.”
Following a further inspection, SPCA gained possession of several adult German Shepherds which were thin, had matted coats and were suffering from health conditions such as untreated ear infections and skin issues. SPCA later returned to the property to seize other dogs and puppies, including two pregnant females – one of which was found locked in a dark, dirty shed inside a cargo crate.
Inspectors agreed that the most concerning dog they seized was an adult German Shepherd found tangled in her tether inside a cage with no water. The short leash was twisted tightly around her hind leg, forcing it into an extremely uncomfortable position up near her head. She had been unable to move for so long that the leg was swollen and when Inspectors freed her, she was unable to bear any weight on it. Sadly, the tight tether had also caused a major skin infection. She was in so much pain, discomfort and distress, she had to be euthanised.
“This was a heart-breaking decision and shows just how severely neglected some of these animals were. Not only had this particular dog been kept in poor conditions, she would have suffered immense pain during that time,” says Ms Midgen.
Months later, SPCA received information about several distressed dogs barking at an isolated piece of bush at the back of a rural property owned by the defendant. When Inspectors arrived at the scene, they found six German Shepherds tethered to trees, several kilometres from the main dwelling. They were under-weight and four didn’t have access to water.
The dogs were seized by SPCA, including one with a skin infection and another with an ear infection. A veterinarian determined the ear infection was chronic, untreated, and would have been causing considerable pain and distress.
“A huge amount of time, effort and money has been poured into this investigation to make sure those responsible could be held to account. This is without a doubt one of the largest prosecutions SPCA has ever undertaken and as a charity, we simply wouldn’t have been able to do it without the support of our generous donors,” says Ms Midgen.
SPCA National Inspectorate Manager Alan Wilson says the case highlights the need for better regulation of the breeding industry, to ensure breeders maintain appropriate animal welfare standards and are held accountable for any breaches to those standards.
“The demand for puppies is higher than ever and we’re seeing more and more concerning practices from some breeders,” says Mr Wilson. “Currently, there is nothing to stop a person from setting up a breeding operation in New Zealand, meaning the door is wide open for what we know as backyard breeders. While many breeders do treat their animals well, there are others that continue to operate under the bare minimum animal welfare standards, and some far below this.
This means they’re not breaking the law or breaches may be difficult to legally prove, but the welfare of the animals could be vastly improved. Until the law is changed and breeders are given specific standards to adhere to, it’s up to buyers to be wary of who they’re purchasing puppies from and to report any concerns to SPCA,” says Mr Wilson.
SPCA recommends that people adopt from reputable rescue organisations or accredited breeders. However, if people are looking to purchase from a breeder, it’s crucial they do their research first. Buyers should always meet the breeder face to face and visit the property to meet the puppy and its parents, to ensure they’re being raised in good conditions. Anyone with animal welfare concerns is encouraged to contact SPCA.