Man and woman who neglected 100 animals sentenced to one month in prison

December 20, 2019

In Elizabeth Magistrates Court today, two defendants were given a sentence of one month imprisonment following guilty pleas to the ill-treatment of 100 animals.

68-year-old John Leslie Carter pleaded guilty to ill-treating 45 birds. 64-year-old Karen Maxwell pleaded guilty to ill-treating 45 animals including rabbits, chickens and ducks. Maxwell also pleaded guilty to Hindering an Inspector.

Both defendants pleaded guilty to ill-treatment of 10 alpacas and llamas found in emaciated condition. Most of the charges related to the squalid and cramped living conditions in which the animals were being kept.

Maxwell was sentenced to six months imprisonment, with one month to be served immediately and five months suspended upon entry into a bond to be of good behaviour for a period of 12 months.

Magistrate White sentenced Carter to 120 days imprisonment, with one month to be served immediately and the remainder suspended upon entry into a bond to be of good behaviour for a period of 12 months. His Honour stated that he distinguished between the co-defendants on the basis that Carter was in worse health.

Both defendants were also banned from owning any animals indefinitely and have been ordered to surrender three cats currently in their care.

(Under South Australia’s Animal Welfare Act, maximum penalties for non-aggravated offences involving the ill treatment of an animal are two years in jail or a $20,000 fine. Aggravated offences of animal cruelty can result in maximum penalties of four years in jail or a $50,000 fine.)

Responding to animal cruelty reports, two RSPCA South Australia Inspectors attended the co-defendant’s property on 31 October 2017. Maxwell was present at the time.

The Inspectors made several observations, including:

  • Cages in an enclosed veranda type area, most containing a single rabbit. Many of the water bottles available to the rabbits were empty and none had food.
  • Under a gazebo, 2 cages containing 2 rabbits with no access to food or water.
  • A cage containing approximately 5 rabbits with no access to water. This cage also contained a deceased chicken.
  • Inside two tin sheds, a large number of rabbits housed in small, faeces-laden cages, some stacked on top of each other.

As a consequence of their observations, the attending RSPCA South Australia Inspectors issued Maxwell with a legally enforceable Animal Welfare Notice requiring specific actions be taken to improve the welfare conditions for the animals in her care, including provision of food and clean water and the cleaning of all animal cages at least twice a week.

The Inspectors re-attended the co-defendant’s property on 15 December 2017 to confirm compliance with the Animal Welfare Notice. On this occasion, both defendants were present at the address.

The Inspectors’ observations during this second visit included:

  • In an enclosed veranda area at the rear of the house, 14 rabbits living in filthy conditions similar to those observed on 31 October 2017. None of the rabbits had access to food and 8 of them had no access to water. Some of the rabbits were observed attempting to drink from empty water bottles.
  • Multiple other animals including alpacas, llamas, poultry and aviary birds and parrots with either no access to water or no access to water suitable for drinking.
  • Enclosures containing both live and deceased birds in various states of decomposition, including one enclosure that had live birds housed together with a bag full of decomposing bodies of birds.
  • Ducks with no access to a body of water in which they could exhibit normal behaviours like paddling and wet preening.
  • 8 alpacas and 2 llamas were located in a disused vineyard at the property in an emaciated condition.

136 animals were seized and taken into RSPCA South Australia’s care. The majority of the animals recovered and were subsequently rehomed.

Members of the public who witness animal cruelty or neglect are urged to immediately call RSPCA’s 24-hour cruelty report hotline on 1300 477 722.

RSPCA is the only South Australian charity with legal power to investigate animal cruelty – but inspectors rely on the public to be their eyes and ears. That’s why RSPCA has again launched its Combat Cruelty campaign, which asks South Australians to take the pledge to combat cruelty


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