SPCA New Zealand

SPCA prosecutes man after he attempted to dock his dog’s tail

22 May 2019
SPCA prosecutes man after he attempted to dock his dog’s tail

A Huntly man has been prosecuted by SPCA after he attempted to dock the tail of his dog, resulting in 60% of the tail being amputated and leaving exposed bone, muscle and tendon protruding.

The defendant pleaded guilty to performing a significant surgical procedure on an animal, and failing to ensure that the animal receives treatment to alleviate any unreasonable or unnecessary pain or distress.

On Friday 17 May, he was sentenced in the Huntly District Court to 150 hours’ community work, disqualified from owning animals indefinitely, and ordered to pay SPCA $954.51.

The case began in May 2017 when a Waikato District Animal Control Officer (ACO) found Thimble, a four-month Doberman puppy roaming the streets. Thimble had a tail wound that looked painful, inflamed, and infected, and visible bone could be seen.

The defendant refused to let the ACO take Thimble to a vet, saying that he had called SPCA who were coming the next day and would treat Thimble for free. There was no record in the SPCA system of that call being received or of any request for assistance from the defendant.

That same day, an SPCA Inspector came to the property and saw that Thimble had bone and flesh visible at the end of his tail. Thimble was cowering and fearful, urinating where he stood, and showing signs of pain and distress. The defendant surrendered Thimble to SPCA, and he was taken to a vet clinic in Huntly and given immediate pain relief and first aid.

Soon after, Thimble was taken from the vet clinic to SPCA’s Auckland vet hospital and treated by an SPCA Veterinarian. Her report said that Thimble’s tail wound had two centimeters of exposed bone, muscle, and tendon protruding from the skin which had a clearly visible line. This line was consistent with an injury caused by ligation of the tail, with or without an extra cutting trauma. An estimated 60% of Thimble’s tail was amputated.

Thimble flinched when his tail was handled, and he also showed signs of ‘learned helplessness’, which is seen in animals who have learnt they cannot escape from painful situations. His injury caused pain and suffering at the time as well as beyond the initial injury. The damage to his skin, muscle, and nerves was painful and long-lasting, especially with the complicating infection and repeated trauma to the exposed wound.

The defendant admitted that he had placed a sheep docking rubber band on the dog’s tail in an attempt to dock the tail. He said that someone else had played with the band and that’s why the tail went bad. He admitted that Thimble had not been microchipped, registered, vaccinated, or seen a vet at any time.

“This is one of the few sentences in SPCA’s history of indefinite disqualification, which reflects the seriousness of this act of cruelty inflicted on this innocent being,” says Andrea Midgen, SPCA CEO.

“Tail docking does not provide a benefit to dogs. Docking must be carried out only for medical reasons, Animal Welfare regulations state that only a veterinarian or a veterinary student under supervision may complete the procedure, and the animal must receive pain relief.”

“The defendant took matters into his own hands and attempted a surgical procedure with devastating results. Thimble’s learned helplessness is particularly distressing given his age, as this likely meant he had been exposed to situations where he couldn’t escape from, and his only response was to ‘give up’.”

“Thankfully, Thimble was adopted by his loving forever home after extensive care by the SPCA’s Canine Team, and never again has to live in pain or fear.”

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