SPCA New Zealand

SPCA prosecutes man for appalling neglect of sheep and dog

23 February 2024

A man who left his sheep’s de-gloved broken leg to become so septic she had to be euthanised has been prosecuted by SPCA for neglecting the animal, as well as a sick dog on his property.

 SPCA prosecutes man for appalling neglect of sheep and dog

The defendant was sentenced at Tauranga District Court this afternoon after admitting two charges, including reckless ill-treatment of an animal and failing to ensure an ill animal received treatment.

He was sentenced to 12 months intensive supervision, 100 hours of community work and disqualified from owning animals for a period of 5 years.

SPCA was called to the man’s Whakamarama property in September 2022, after receiving a call of concern about an injured sheep. When Inspectors arrived, they discovered an underweight ewe with a severely broken, dangling leg that had turned black. The leg was wrapped in a homemade splint and strapped with zip ties.

The ewe was immediately taken into SPCA’s possession and transported to a nearby veterinary clinic. Upon examination, the vet determined the sheep’s right hind leg was in fact de-gloved, with several centimetres of bone exposed. The injury had become septic, and the ewe was severely distressed as a result. On top of the infection and injury, the ewe was in very poor body condition.

The vet concluded the ewe would have been suffering severe pain and distress since the leg was broken a month earlier, and the owner’s attempt to fix it with a splint would have caused further significant and unnecessary suffering. The injury and illness, combined with the need to feed multiple lambs, would have contributed to the ewe’s rapid weight loss. Sadly, given the ewe’s extensive suffering and poor condition, the most humane option was euthanasia.

SPCA Chief Executive Todd Westwood says the ewe should never have been left to suffer.

“This poor animal was clearly in pain and distressed, and it’s appalling that this individual failed to seek any kind of help for her,” says Mr Westwood. “It’s devastating to imagine how much this sheep suffered in her final days, and to know it was all avoidable.”

Several weeks later, SPCA Inspectors returned to the man’s property to discuss the investigation into the ewe’s neglect. As they approached the house, they spotted a black and white border-collie type dog that appeared underweight. The dog’s face was swollen on one side, with blood, pus and a strong smell coming from its mouth.

The dog, named Roxy, was immediately taken into SPCA’s possession, and treated by a vet for several weeks. The vet said Roxy had impaired mobility, was underweight due to underfeeding, and had poor muscle mass. Her claws were overgrown, and her right forelimb had complete muscle wastage. She was anxious and showing signs of severe discomfort. The biggest concern, however, was a large mass on her mouth, with necrotic material.

A laboratory diagnosis confirmed it was melanoma that had spread to Roxy’s lymphatic system. Due to the level of pain she was in – and had likely been in for several months – as well as the severity of her untreated illness, she was euthanised.

When interviewed by SPCA Inspectors, the defendant said he knew the ewe would have been in pain but didn’t do anything to relieve it. He admitted that when his animals became injured, it was usual practice for him to wait until they die and bury them without seeking any treatment. He said he had noticed the dog wasn’t well but hadn’t taken her to a vet because he couldn’t afford it.

“Knowingly leaving animals to suffer in pain is completely unacceptable,” says Mr Westwood.

“If you are unable to afford veterinary treatment, please reach out for help.

“The defendant’s attitude towards his animals, that they should be left to die without seeking help or relief for them, demonstrates a complete disregard for the fact these animals are sentient beings who feel pain and distress just as we do. It’s disappointing and extremely concerning to see someone treat their animals in this way.”

As well as being disqualified from owning animals, the defendant was ordered to pay reparations of $2,933.10 and $250 towards legal costs.

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