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Abuse case one of worst in NZ

Cookie, with SPCA inspector Ben Lakomy, at his new home . PHOTO/GRACE PRIOR

More neglect than outright cruelty

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Masterton’s case of “sheep and horses left to rot” has been named the second-worst animal welfare case in New Zealand, after Monday morning’s publication of an annual ‘List of Shame’.

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals made public the list yesterday, detailing 10 of the country’s worst animal welfare cases. The Masterton incident was named number two.

In a statement, SPCA said inspectors discovered a mob of 43 sheep in faeces-covered paddocks with no grazing available, severely matted wool, fly strike with wool loss, peeling skin, and inflammation with maggots visible.

“A number of horses were also found in varying states of neglect; emaciated, open wounds, gum disease, very long hooves and clearly in a lot of pain.

“A 20-year-old gelding was at least 50 kilograms underweight and had an infestation of parasites, long feet and gum ulcers.”

Another horse had been found with significant dental issues and weighed 100kg less than normal weight.

The Masterton woman who owned the animals was sentenced to 150 hours of community work and ordered to pay $15,000 in reparations to SPCA.

The woman was disqualified from owning stock animals, except two, for 10 years.

SPCA Wairarapa inspector Ben Lakomy, who worked on the case, said it involved many animals and a severe level of offending.

“There were some fairly significant injuries that some of the horses sustained, and some long-term neglect as well. The animals would have suffered over a long period of time,” he said.

Lakomy said any animals which were taken into SPCA custody have since been rehomed.

One of these animals included Cookie, who weighed 100kg less than he should, had parasites, very long feet, and gum ulcers which caused him pain.

Cookie was now living at a property on Upper Plain Rd in Masterton.

He was one of two horses who survived, with three horses having to be put down, SPCA said.

“As far as preventing a repeat in this case, I’d be very hopeful that the process that we ended up having to go through with [the woman] would instill enough in her that she wouldn’t do it again,” Lakomy said.

“We did historically work with her to try and prevent offending with other outcomes like warnings, but it got too serious, and we weren’t getting the desired behaviour change.”

Lakomy said there were more neglect cases than often thought, with a common occurrence being underfeeding.

“Lack of food is a common job that we respond to; it can be for a number of reasons, typically it’s money,” he said.

Lakomy said he saw too many people not being able to afford their animals’ care and not seeking help for whatever reason.

“They could have any number of things going on in their life that unfortunately means that feeding the dog is quite low down on the priority list, but at the end of the day, there are laws in place in New Zealand that protect animals from that sort of treatment.

“In a lot of cases we are able to go into properties, and the offending is what we would call low level, for example, there may be an underweight animal where it may only be a little bit underweight, and the person acknowledges that they’ve failed for whatever reason, and accept support,’ Lakomy said.

The next level of neglect was reached when “animals may be quite underweight, and owners have been quite neglectful, we’d begin to direct them at this point”.

“We can start to issue notices to comply or to tell them to get some vet advice or feed a certain amount of times a day,” he said.

Lakomy said although neglect cases out-weighed straight out animal cruelty cases, they were also too many.

He thought there was a lack of knowledge in the community about the Animal Welfare Act’s existence and what it meant.

“The SPCA shows up, and people don’t know the inspector is appointed under the Animal Welfare Act and can enforce the law,” he said.

“However, if you’re going to own an animal, you need to make sure you’re complying with the laws and codes that are in place for that specific animal.”

Over the past year, SPCA had about 35,000 animals come through their doors, most with sad stories of abuse, neglect, and abandonment.

As a charitable organisation, it needed $47 million annually to operate. With minimal government funding, SPCA relied on the public for the majority of its donations.

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