Animal cruelty case files: 2020/21

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Our small team of seven inspectors responds to more than 4,000 reports of animal cruelty across South Australia each year. The very worst of these cases proceed to prosecution in court.

Below you can read the results of all animal cruelty cases RSPCA South Australia prosecuted in 2020/21. Please remember, magistrates choose the penalty for offenders who have breached South Australia’s Animal Welfare Act – not RSPCA.

We urge you to stand with us and help stop animal suffering. Please take the pledge to Combat Cruelty in South Australia.

June 2021

Women convicted for starving two Siberian Huskies

A 31-year-old woman was convicted in the Christies Beach Magistrates Court on 3 June 2020 on two counts of ill-treatment of an animal in relation to two Siberian Huskies, a 10-month-old female named Stormy and a 10-month-old male named Demon.

An RSPCA South Australia inspector attended at a Christies Downs property on 28 September 2019 in response to a cruelty report. The inspector found the male dog deceased in the backyard, and its emaciated body was partially eaten. The surviving female dog was also in an emaciated state, with a body condition score (BCS) of 1 out of 9. Out of desperation, the surviving dog is believed to have partially consumed the deceased dog’s body.

After three weeks in the care of RSPCA South Australia, Stormy gained 76% of her initial bodyweight. A veterinary report concluded that the dog would have been receiving inadequate nutrition for at least two weeks prior to her seizure by the RSPCA inspector. Stormy found a new home in November 2019.

May 2021

Couple convicted after allowing dog to starve for at least three weeks 

The owners of a dog left to starve for at least three weeks were convicted in the Elizabeth Magistrates Court on 26 May 2020 on an animal cruelty charge. RSPCA inspectors found two dogs in poor condition at an Elizabeth North property in August 2019. One dog, named Paige, had a body condition score (BCS) of just 1/9. The other dog, Sally, was also underweight and had a dog-bite injury on her neck caused by her fighting with Paige over food.

Both dogs were seized for treatment and care.

Under a careful feeding plan at RSPCA’s Lonsdale shelter, both dogs steadily gained weight. Paige, a five-year-old Rottweiler cross, gained 1.8 times her body weight and Sally, a two-year-old Staffordshire Bull Terrier cross, gained 1.5 times her bodyweight.

Both dogs were cared for in RSPCA foster homes before being adopted.

The defendants were charged under SA’s Animal Welfare Act with Ill Treatment of an Animal, in relation to the more severely underweight dog, Paige. Both defendants pleaded guilty to the charge.

The magistrate placed the male defendant on a two-year, $2000 good behaviour bond. The defendant has been previously prosecuted (without conviction) for animal cruelty, for abandoning a sick puppy at a vet. He claimed at the time that he had found the puppy in a bin.

The female defendant was placed on an 18-month, $1000 good behaviour bond.

Both defendants are prohibited from owning any animals until further notice and were ordered to pay veterinary, animal boarding and court costs totalling $1,563.

Man who shot and killed neighbours’ two Labradors convicted on cruelty charges 

An elderly man who shot and killed his neighbours’ two dogs after they strayed onto his property was sentenced in the Elizabeth Magistrates Court on 10 May 2021.

The incident happened on a property at Riverton, in the State’s mid-north, on 11 December 2018. The dogs’ owners alerted police after their pets escaped from their home and failed to return. They had heard gunshots and, fearing the worst, had driven around the area but failed to find their dogs.

On Monday 15 March 2021, the 72-year-old defendant pleaded guilty to two counts of ill-treatment of an animal causing death or serious harm. The two dogs, a five-year-old golden male Labrador named Darcy and a four-year-old black female Labrador named Yoda, died after the neighbour fired at them with a shotgun. 

The defendant was convicted and fined $4,900, and ordered to pay the dogs’ owner $2,800 in compensation.

Woman pleads guilty to trapping and then abandoning stray cat

A 45-year-old woman from Adelaide’s northern suburbs pleaded guilty to the ill-treatment of an animal after trapping a cat and abandoning the animal at Gould Creek, east of Elizabeth. On 8 September 2020, a passing motorist noticed the woman releasing the cat from a cat carrier cage before driving away, and contacted RSPCA.

An RSPCA inspector attended the location and set a trap, and the cat was caught on 11 September 2020. The cat did not have a microchip or any identification and a door-knock of the neighbourhood failed to locate an owner. The two-year-old male tabby was cared for at RSPCA’s Lonsdale shelter before being adopted into a new home in October 2020.

The woman told the RSPCA inspector that she believed the cat was female and pregnant and she did not want more stray cats on her property. (Under SA’s Animal Welfare Act, it is illegal for a person who has custody and control of an animal to abandon it.)

The magistrate released the woman without conviction on a good behaviour bond of 12 months. A condition of the bond is that she does not acquire or have custody of any cats other than her existing cat.

 

Woman convicted for starving her dog

A 34-year-old woman was convicted in the Christies Beach Magistrates Court after pleading guilty to failing to provide appropriate and adequate food to her two-year-old Kelpie cross dog.

An RSPCA inspector attended at a Morphett Vale property on 8 August 2018 in response to a cruelty complaint regarding two dogs. The inspector observed one dog to be emaciated while the second dog, a Rottweiler cross, was thin. The inspector decided to immediately seize the emaciated dog due to concerns for the animal’s welfare. An RSPCA vet at the Lonsdale shelter observed that the dog had a body condition score of 1/9 and weighed 4.6 kilograms. He estimated the dog had been receiving inadequate nutrition for at least two weeks prior to the seizure.

There were no indicators of underlying disease. Less than one month later, the dog had almost doubled in weight to nine kilograms.

The defendant was convicted, placed on a $1000 good behaviour bond for three years and ordered to pay veterinary, boarding and court costs totalling $1391. The defendant’s difficult personal circumstances including poor mental health, together with her genuine remorse, were mitigating factors in the sentencing decision.

The dog fully recovered and was rehomed in January 2019.

April 2021

Owner convicted after puppy seriously injured by ill-fitting harness

A 59-year-old man pleaded guilty in a regional SA magistrates court to charges of failing to mitigate harm to a three-month-old Kelpie cross puppy. SA Police officers seized the animal on 2 July 2020 after attending at the premises on an unrelated matter and finding him suffering from a harness that was excessively tight.

An RSPCA inspector collected the animal and transported him to a vet who provided an opinion that the wounds on the neck had been caused by a harness left on without adjustment as the puppy grew and the wounds to the axillae were caused by the pup getting its leg caught in the harness while trying to scratch or remove it.

The man pleaded guilty and was convicted without penalty. The magistrate took into account the man’s extensive medical and psychological issues in deciding not to impose a penalty but ordered him to surrender any animals in his care to the RSPCA SA within seven days. He is now forbidden from acquiring or having custody of any animal until further order.  He was ordered to pay court and veterinary costs totalling $527.

The puppy recovered from his injuries and was rehomed.

Owner of chronically neglected merino ram convicted on cruelty charges 

 A 64-year-old owner of a chronically neglected merino ram pleaded guilty to charges of Ill-Treatment of an Animal and was convicted in the Berri Magistrates Court on 24 March 2021.

An RSPCA South Australia inspector responding to a cruelty report found the ram in a paddock at Moorook in July 2020. The animal had an overgrown horn that was rubbing against his right eye as well as a chain around one leg that had embedded in the flesh.

The ram’s owner was given an opportunity to remedy the situation but failed to do so. As a result, the ram and a merino ewe were seized, crutched and the chain removed with bolt-cutters from the ram’s leg. An angle grinder was used to cut the horn that had curled across the ram’s eye. RSPCA South Australia’s Chief Veterinarian Dr Brad Ward provided an expert opinion that the surface of the eye had significant opacity due to inflammation, resulting in reduced vision.

He stated the ram would have suffered significant, unrelenting pain caused by the very hard horn rubbing on the eye’s cornea, and that the animal had endured this pain for at least nine months.

Dr Ward estimated the chain had embedded in the ram’s leg for between 10-20 days, with the animal suffering significant pain because the chain had split the skin, leaving the underlying soft tissues exposed. The ram recovered from the injuries and both sheep were rehomed.

In court, the defendant stated that he had simply not gotten around to removing the horn from the ram, and that he did not realise the chain around the animal’s leg was too tight.

He was placed on a $500 good behaviour bond for two years and prohibited from owning any livestock until further order. He was also ordered to surrender any livestock to RSPCA South Australia within seven days.

Woman convicted for abuse of two puppies

A 29-year-old woman from Kilburn pleaded guilty to two counts of ill-treatment of an animal in relation to two Staffordshire Terrier cross puppies in her care. The court was told that on 15 April 2020, a social worker attended the woman’s residence on a professional basis. On arrival, she met the woman and found her to be in a highly agitated state.

The social worker observed the woman yelling at the two puppies and hitting them. In her sworn statement to the court, the social worker said that she saw the woman pick up the puppies one at a time, using the skin on their backs, and throw them across a room, causing them to yelp. An RSPCA inspector attended at the property in company with SA Police officers and, under the authority of a warrant, seized the puppies. They were examined by RSPCA SA’s Chief Vet, Dr Brad Ward, who provided opinion that, although the animals did not have physical injuries as a consequence of the actions of their owner, they would have suffered psychological harm. Dr Ward described the puppies’ yelping and crying as a physical response to the pain they were suffering as well as their fear response in anticipation of further pain.

The defendant’s traumatic and dysfunctional past was a mitigating factor in her sentencing. The magistrate imposed a $500 good behaviour bond for 12 months and prohibited the defendant from owning any animals, other than two dogs belonging to her partner, whose care is being supervised by RSPCA for 12 months.

The puppies were cared for by RSPCA foster carers before being adopted in January 2021.

Woman prohibited from owning animals after two dogs found emaciated 

A 37-year-old woman from Adelaide’s northern suburbs was sentenced in the Elizabeth Magistrates Court on 15 March 2021 after pleading guilty to failing to provide appropriate and adequate food to her two dogs, named Roxy and Tun.

Responding to a cruelty report, an RSPCA South Australia inspector attended at the defendant’s property on 15 October 2019 and examined two Staffordshire Terrier cross dogs. Both were underweight, and the inspector provided the defendant with feeding advice to rectify their weight.

One month later, on 15 November 2019, the inspector returned to the defendant’s property. The defendant was not home, but the dogs were sighted in the yard and found to still be in poor body condition. As a result, a warrant was sought to access the property and the dogs were seized on 18 November 2019 and taken into RSPCA South Australia’s care.

The dogs were examined by the veterinary team at RSPCA’s Lonsdale shelter. One-year-old Tun weighed 16kg and had a BCS (body condition score) of 2/9. Five-year-old Roxy weighed 9kg and had a BCS of 2.5/9. (On the BCS index, 1-3 is underweight, 4-5 is ideal and 6-9 is overweight/obese.)

Three weeks after coming into RSPCA South Australia’s care, Tun weighed 18kg and Roxy weighed 11.7kg. Both dogs continued to regain weight while living with RSPCA South Australia foster carers and were subsequently rehomed.

In sentencing, the magistrate imposed a three-year, $3500 good behaviour bond and prohibited the defendant from owning animals until further order. The defendant was ordered to pay veterinary, boarding and legal costs totalling $1,520.

Animal hoarder convicted in relation to cats kept in squalor 

A 61-year-old woman from Adelaide’s north-eastern suburbs was convicted in the Elizabeth Magistrates Court on 12 March 2021 in relation to three cats she was keeping in squalid conditions at her home. RSPCA inspectors seized the animals in September 2019.  

RSPCA South Australia inspectors previously attended at the defendant’s residence in January 2018, when 48 cats and kittens were removed over a four-week period.

The defendant pleaded guilty to three charges of failing to provide the animals with appropriate and adequate living conditions and one charge of failing to take reasonable steps to mitigate harm suffered by an animal in relation to one of the three cats. This cat was suffering from untreated diabetes and skin scalding caused by urine leakage. Due to the animal’s multiple medical conditions and poor prognosis, she was humanely euthanased.

The other two cats were rehomed.

The magistrate declined to record a conviction and imposed a 12-month, $500 good behaviour bond. His Honour also prohibited the defendant from acquiring or having custody of any animal until further order.

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Please, we urge you, take our pledge and join us in preventing and stopping animal cruelty.

February 2021

Man who left dog to suffer almost severed leg without vet care given three-year bond

A man from Adelaide’s northern suburbs who left his young dog to endure a catastrophic leg injury without veterinary care escaped conviction but received a three-year good behaviour bond after pleading guilty to a cruelty charge in the Elizabeth Magistrates Court on 11 February 2021.

RSPCA South Australia inspectors attended at the property on 13 October 2020 after receiving a report of a dog with a leg injury that had left the bone exposed. The dog was attempting to walk on three legs, with its injured leg dangling.

The one-year-old, female Kelpie-cross dog, named Coco, was immediately taken to RSPCA’s Lonsdale shelter, where the veterinary team performed an emergency amputation. The dog made a full recovery and was rehomed.

The defendant was charged with ill treatment of an animal by way of failing to take reasonable steps to mitigate harm. He admitted noticing his dog’s injury on Saturday 10 October and stated that he decided to leave his dog to rest with the intention of assessing the situation over the next few days.

By Monday 12 October, the defendant said his dog had started to move more and that he believed she was improving. He said he thought he would take her to the vet if she wasn’t improving.

The magistrate said the defendant must have been aware of the seriousness of the dog’s injury. However, due to the defendant’s previous good character, early guilty plea and involvement with his children’s school activities, his Honour chose not to record a conviction.

The defendant was given a three-year good behaviour bond and prohibited from owning any animals, aside from the family’s other dog. RSPCA South Australia’s legal counsel agreed to this second dog remaining with the defendant, due to concern for the defendant’s young children who had suffered with the loss of Coco from their lives.

However, the defendant was required to take the dog to a vet within a month, and to provide a veterinary report on the dog’s health to RSPCA South Australia. A second report is required in 12 months and the dog will be monitored by RSPCA South Australia inspectors for two years.

The defendant was also ordered to pay RSPCA South Australia veterinary costs of $2005 and legal costs of $110.

January 2021

Woman convicted for breaching order prohibiting animal ownership

A 25-year-old woman was convicted for breaching an order imposed by the court in November 2018 which prohibits her from having or acquiring any animals, apart from one adult female dog. In February 2020, the defendant intentionally bred a litter of seven puppies from the dog. The animals were seized by RSPCA inspectors from a property in Port Elliot in February 2020.

The magistrate took into account the defendant’s voluntary surrender of the dogs. Her Honour recorded a conviction and fined the defendant $600. Legal and animal boarding costs totally $5,640 were awarded to RSPCA and the prohibition order made in November 2018 remains in force.

November 2020 

Warrant issued for arrest of dog and horse breeder convicted on 33 animal cruelty charges

A 57-year-old woman was convicted in the Port Pirie Magistrates Court on 2 November 2020 on six counts of Ill Treatment of an Animal in relation to five horses and one dog. The magistrate found the defendant (who failed to attend) guilty on all counts.

The six animals were seized in May 2019 by RSPCA South Australia inspectors a property at Baroota, in the State’s mid-north, following a cruelty report. They were among 86 dogs and 56 horses found on the property.

The inspectors observed no evidence of feed in the paddocks containing the horses, other than in one pen containing a healthy stallion. In the absence of food, some of the horses were eating their own faeces.

One of the horses, a 17-year-old thoroughbred mare, was so severely emaciated she collapsed soon after being taken into foster care. The veterinary report stated that this horse was 140kg underweight. Despite attempts to save the mare, she died four days later as a consequence of chronic malnourishment.

The other four horses were also in emaciated condition and required careful feeding under veterinary guidance to return to healthy weights. The horses were forfeited to the Crown, pursuant to court orders made at the 2nd November 2020 hearing. Under the expert care of Lincoln Park Horse Rescue and Rehabilitation, all four horses were brought back to full health.

A charge of failure to mitigate harm was made in relation to an elderly, female Pomeranian dog. The dog was suffering multiple health issues including renal and urinary disease and dislocations of both knees, with significant associated pain, and was euthanased.

The November court decision followed guilty verdicts on another 27 animal cruelty charges against the same defendant in the Port Pirie Magistrates Court on 31 March 2020. Those charges related to 27 dogs seized from the same Baroota property by RSPCA inspectors on 3 May 2017. They were among 75 dogs (including puppies), 45 horses, seven sheep and 25 chickens on the property at this time.

Four of the seized dogs were German Shepherds with significant mobility issues and chronic health problems. In relation to these dogs, the defendant was convicted on charges of failing to provide adequate and appropriate veterinary care to each of the dogs.

The 23 other dogs seized were Pomeranians. In relation to these dogs, the defendant was charged with failing to provide appropriate and adequate food, water, living conditions (whether temporary or permanent) or exercise. In sentencing, the Magistrate said the defendant had fallen “far short of achieving even the minimum standards one would expect”. 

The defendant failed to attend the last four court hearings and is yet to be sentenced. She is now understood to be living in New Zealand, with a warrant issued for her arrest if she returns to Australia. RSPCA SA is continuing to investigate the defendant’s possible extradition.

October 2020

Woman convicted for starving dog and failing to get veterinary care

A woman from Adelaide’s northern suburbs was convicted in the Elizabeth Magistrates Court on two charges of ill-treatment of an animal in relation to a dog she co-owned with her previous partner. (The man is co-accused and is still before the court in relation to this case and other matters.)

The defendant pleaded guilty to the two offences relating to her dog, a two-year-old American Bulldog. The couple were charged with failing to provide the dog with appropriate and adequate food. It was further alleged that the defendants failed to take reasonable steps to mitigate harm suffered by the animal in relation to two untreated abscesses on her left forepaw. The dog had recently had puppies, which were in a healthy condition.

Concerned for the condition of the female dog, SA Police officers seized her and her three puppies on 24 October 2020 and took them to a veterinary clinic. They were later collected by an RSPCA inspector and taken to the Lonsdale shelter.

A veterinary report stated that the dog had a body condition score of 1/9. (A BCS of 5/9 is ideal, while 9/9 is obese and 1/9 is severely emaciated.)

The court was told that the defendants’ personal circumstances contributed to the underfeeding of the dog and that she regretted her failure to care for the animal properly.

The magistrate imposed a conviction with a $1000 good behaviour bond of three years, ordered veterinary, prosecution and Victims of Crime levy costs totalling $876.00 to be paid and forbade the defendant from acquiring or having custody of, any animals for two years.

The adult female dog and her puppies were cared for by RSPCA foster carers before being rehomed.

Suspended six-month prison sentence for woman who kept 118 cats in squalor 

A 66-year-old woman was convicted in the Elizabeth Magistrates Court on 13 August 2020 on nine counts of ill-treatment of an animal and one count of failing to comply with the South Australian Standards and Guidelines for Breeding and Trading Companion Animals. 

The charges related to 118 Ragdoll cats seized by RSPCA South Australia inspectors from a Lewiston property on 27 May 2020.

Many of the cats had behavioural issues as a result of their filthy living conditions and lack of socialisation.  Some of the cats required veterinary attention for a range of untreated health issues including chronic teeth infection and decay and infected ingrown claws.

The woman was given a six-month prison sentence, suspended on a two-year good behaviour bond. She was prohibited from acquiring any further animals, but permitted to retain ownership of three cats. Their ongoing care is being monitored by RSPCA inspectors.

Pledge to help us combat cruelty

Remember, you can help us prevent this animal pain and suffering.

Please, we urge you, take our pledge and join us in preventing and stopping animal cruelty.