By Hayley Gastmeier
A “dearly loved cat” desperately tried to free itself from a possum trap set on a residential Masterton fence.
Eli, a 4-year-old female tabby, was found dead, hanging from the fence with a dislocated left front forelimb in March last year.
Significant scratch marks were evident on the fence due to Eli’s attempts to escape, with an SPCA inspector describing the case as “harrowing”.
Yesterday Ross Allen Dorrian was ordered to pay $2350 in fines, reparations and court fees at Masterton District Court, after pleading guilty to two charges of ill-treating an animal, and using a restricted trap unlawfully.
Speaking after sentencing Eli’s owner, Deb Haglund, of Masterton, said the whole ordeal had been particularly “horrendous” for her two teenage daughters who found their beloved family pet.
Trap set for possums snares cat
But she said the sentence was “very fair”, and she hoped both her family and the defendant could now move on with their lives.
She said it was “senseless” to set a trap in a residential area, but considered Dorrian may not have thought potential repercussions through.
Sitting in the dock, Dorrian had looked regretful, Mrs Haglund said.
“Looking at him, he looked as devastated as I felt”.
Last March, Dorrian, 56, had secured a size one restricted leg hold trap to a fence post on the boundary of his rented Masterton property, in an attempt to catch possums.
He had not sought permission to use the trap from any of the neighbours and, according to the SPCA, the trap was set within 150 metres of about 143 addresses.
The fence on which the trap was set was on the boundary of a property which Mrs Haglund had recently sold.
For a week she had been searching the area for Eli, who had gone missing on moving day.
It was the new owners of the address who eventually discovered the cat.
Judge Barbara Morris said the defendant had unwilfully ill-treated “someone’s dearly loved cat”.
She stated Dorrian lived “in a town, not the bush”, and he should have been aware, when setting the trap, that there was the risk someone’s pet would be caught.
Eli had been in “huge pain” before she died, suffering from “dehydration, hypothermia, exhaustion and shock”, Judge Morris said.
She said it was “accepted”, however, that Dorrian had not intended to catch someone’s companion animal.
Defence lawyer Steve Taylor said Dorrian was “remorseful” about the “unfortunate” incident, adding that the day the cat had been caught was “the one day [his client] forgot to check the trap”.
SPCA prosecutor Karl van der Plas proposed Dorrian should be sentenced to either 200 hours of community work or face a $4000 fine.
Judge Morris took into account that the defendant’s income, and the fact he had no history of animal cruelty.
She said a fine going to the SPCA would be “more useful”.
She ordered Dorrian to pay a fine of $1500 to the SPCA, $500 in emotional harm reparations, $250 towards veterinary costs, and $100 for legal fees.
Outside court, SPCA inspector Ben Lakomy said the case had been “particularly harrowing”, but all parties involved had been cooperative and a “fair result” had been achieved.
He said the case should send a message to others that “setting restricted traps in urban environments is unacceptable”.
People having issues with pests should seek advice from Greater Wellington Regional Council.
Wellington SPCA chief executive Steve Glassey, who is the administrator for the Wairarapa branch, said the SPCA was not defined by a building.
“It’s defined by our actions, and [yesterday’s] court case was a bitter triumph for the Wairarapa community, who have an SPCA operating thanks to their support.”