Dead dogs in backyards, squalor and starvation – SA’s cruelty case files exposed

August 09, 2020

Hard times no excuse for chronic animal neglect – RSPCA SA

With Australia experiencing its first recession in 29 years, RSPCA South Australia fears a rise in animal neglect cases as unemployment levels rise.

The organisation wants wider community acceptance of pet ownership as a privilege that comes with clear responsibilities and obligations – not a right.

RSPCA South Australia inspectors continue to seize animals that are emaciated, without water and shelter and in desperate need of veterinary care.

Today’s no-holds-barred exposure of the tragic consequences for animals with criminally negligent owners is part of a month-long ‘Combat Cruelty’ campaign, aiming to raise awareness about the root causes of animal suffering in the State.

It is the third consecutive year that RSPCA South Australia’s inspectorate has opened its cruelty case files to the public.

Of the 3941 cruelty reports investigated in the last financial year, 27 cases involving 29 defendants were considered so serious RSPCA Inspectors used their legal power to prosecute under SA’s Animal Welfare Act.

Analysis of the 27 prosecution cases reveals:

·         70% involved female defendants (20 female and 9 male)

·         6 defendants received suspended prison sentences

·         2 defendants received an immediate one-month prison term (Williamstown couple convicted for chronic neglect of 100 animals)

·         82% of prosecutions were for chronic animal neglect

·         In four cases, inspectors found dogs either dead or near-death in backyards

·         Four cases involved animal abandonment, including a woman who left two puppies without food and water in a Glenelg North motel room and never returned, and a couple who left 10 cats and a dog in a squalid house south of Adelaide

·         One case involved an act of deliberate cruelty (German Shepherd found in a Mt Gambier backyard with her muzzle cable-tied)

·         Mental health was raised by defence counsels as a factor in most cases, including two with defendants known to RSPCA South Australia as recidivist animal hoarders*

(*Despite guilty pleas, magistrates chose not to record convictions in four of the 27 prosecuted cases, two due to the defendants’ mental health.)

Of the 8255 animals taken into RSPCA South Australia’s care in FY20, about 10% (863) came in via seizure or surrender to the organisation’s inspectorate.

Almost 90% of animals taken into care via the inspectorate were felines (478) and canines (291).

The organisation is urging people to be realistic about their ability to afford animals before acquiring them, and to surrender animals in their care if they are facing significant financial hardship. RSPCA South Australia Chief Inspector Andrea Lewis acknowledged that surrendering an animal can be a hard decision, but added that it is far preferable to letting animals suffer.

“The reality is that caring for animals is not inexpensive, so not everyone can afford to have them,” Ms Lewis said.

“And financial circumstances change, even more so now with rising unemployment.

“If you find that you can’t afford to feed your animals properly and get them to a vet, then finding them a new, good home or surrendering them to a reputable animal welfare organisation like RSPCA is the kindest thing you can do for your pet.

“However, in many cases we investigate, it’s not financial hardship that’s resulting in animals being left to suffer.

“It’s owners who choose to spend their incomes on anything but the things needed to keep their animals healthy – or even alive.

“Why some people even have animals is a mystery to us, when they don’t engage with them and show no regard for their wellbeing.”

Education remains core to the inspectorate’s role, with verbal and/or written advice on animal care provided to 862 people who were the subject of cruelty reports. A further 120 people received legally enforceable Animal Welfare Notices, requiring them to take specific animal care action within a set timeframe.

The Combat Cruelty campaign equips people with information so they can recognise cruelty and help prevent it. South Australians are encouraged to take the Combat Cruelty pledge at –


MEDIA OPPORTUNITY: Sunday 9 August at 11:00am

RSPCA South Australia Chief Inspector Andrea Lewis will be available to interview + surviving dogs from prosecutions in the last financial year, with their new owners and inspectors who investigated the cases.

LOCATION: RSPCA Animal Shelter- 25 Meyer Rd, Lonsdale

For all the latest RSPCA South Australia news, follow us on Facebook and Twitter or head to our website.

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