SPCA New Zealand

SPCA prosecutes woman for neglecting her pet rabbit

12 February 2020
SPCA prosecutes woman for neglecting her pet rabbit

An Auckland woman has been prosecuted by SPCA for ill-treating her pet rabbit.

She was yesterday charged in the Pukekohe District Court with failure to provide vet treatment for her pet rabbit that was injured. She was sentenced to 90 hours’ community work, disqualified from owning an animal for ten years (except for the cat and dog currently owned), and ordered to pay $521.40 in reparation.

The case began in April 2019 when SPCA’s Auckland Centre received a call from the defendant’s daughter. The daughter requested assistance with transporting a white Netherland Dwarf rabbit named Lambo to a vet clinic. She said Lambo was bloated, and that he had not eaten or drank since the day before. She said they had no vehicle to take him to the after-hours clinic.

The following day, an SPCA Field Officer attended the defendant’s address to take Lambo to a vet. She observed Lambo housed in a guinea pig hutch in the defendant’s bedroom, and saw he wasn’t moving. The defendant surrendered Lambo into SPCA’s custody.

The Field Officer took Lambo to SPCA Auckland’s centre for vet treatment. The vet assessed Lambo and found that he was lethargic and reluctant to move around, and had a foul odour, which had attracted flies. There was also a large amount of faeces matted around his backend. Maggots were visible, and extended through the skin on the area of his scrota and up his testicular cord internally. When he was picked up from the table, maggots fell out from his underside. This would likely have happened had the defendant lifted Lambo at home.

Based on the severity of the injuries and the life stage of the maggots, a vet determined they would have been present for at least 2-3 days. The extent of Lambo’s injuries would have been obvious to a layperson. Additionally, his nails were severely overgrown, estimated at least 3-4 months’ growth beyond normal length which was impeding his movement.

Due to the extreme pain Lambo was suffering, he was humanely euthanised. It was determined that if he had been to a vet sooner, or the matted faeces and fly eggs had been noticed and removed by the defendant, his death would have been avoidable.

When an SPCA Inspector conducted an inspection of the defendant’s property the next day, she was shown Lambo’s enclosure. The enclosure was an elevated hutch, which was not suitable for a rabbit that requires space to hop and jump. The hutch was empty, other than some evidence of straw and dust.

The defendant admitted that she had not taken Lambo to see a vet in the two and a half years that she owned him, as she could not afford to. She said that in 2018 she and her daughter thought Lambo needed to see a vet, but they didn’t take him to see one.

She also admitted that she knew Lambo’s nails were overgrown, and had been offered help from her neighbour to clip them, but had declined. She also stated that she handled and touched Lambo once a day, and cleaned his cage every second day. Despite this, she said she had not noticed the faeces build up, fly eggs, or maggot infestation. It was noted that prior to this call, while the defendant had been given the card of an SPCA Inspector in November 2018 on an unrelated matter, she had not taken steps to seek assistance to prevent Lambo’s pain or distress.

“Lambo was living in a cage much too small, unable to display normal behaviours, succumbing to a painful existence, and this was all avoidable,” says Andrea Midgen, SPCA CEO.

“The minimum hutch size recommended for a rabbit is one which allows them to lie outstretched, stand up on their hind limbs without their ears touching the roof, and long enough to allow three consecutive hops.”

“Lambo deserved better than to be trapped in a cage, left to rot in his own excrement.”

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