Suspended jail sentence for second woman who starved dog

August 07, 2019

A 44 year old woman was today given a suspended sentence of two months and 24 days in the Adelaide magistrate’s court following her guilty plea on charges of failure to take reasonable steps to mitigate harm of an animal.

Tracey Goldner, formerly of Seacombe Gardens, was also ordered to pay RSPCA South Australia legal, pathology and veterinary fees totalling $1630 and given a two year, $1000 good behaviour bond.

(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.)

The charges relate to Butch, a four-year-old American Staffordshire Bull Terrier, who was near-death and lying inside a child’s play house in the backyard of a Seacombe Gardens house when found by an RSPCA South Australia inspector in July 2018.

The dog was in such an emaciated state he had a body score of 0/9. (A body score of 5/9 is ideal, while 9/9 is obese and 1/9 is severely emaciated.) His heart rate was barely audible, he was gasping for breath and was suffering chronic diarrhoea. The attending RSPCA vet, who quickly made the decision that humane euthanasia was the only option, testified that the dog “would have been suffering greatly for at least a week, but possibly longer”.

A subsequent pathology report confirmed the dog was severely emaciated and had also been suffering from gastro-intestinal bleeding.

RSPCA South Australia’s Legal Counsel, Chloe Swinden, told the court that the serious nature of the offence warranted a custodial sentence, adding that the defendant had a substantial criminal history for larceny and driving offences and had breached bond on six occasions.

“It is difficult to conceive of a more serious example of this offence,” Ms Swinden said.

“The defendant has been shown leniency by the courts in the past and hasn’t taken advantage of that.”

Today’s court decision follows the sentencing in May of Casey Goldner (the defendant’s 22 year old daughter) on the same charges. After pleading guilty, Casey Goldner received a two-month and 24-day suspended prison sentence and was ordered to pay $1630 in legal, veterinary and pathology fees.

In sentencing Goldner, Chief Magistrate Mary-Louise Hribal noted the defendant’s role as primary carer of her three year old child. However, the Chief Magistrate did not accept the defendant’s submissions that she could not afford veterinary care and did not a have vehicle to take the dog to a vet.

“This dog was in extreme discomfort and pain and desperately needed assistance from you and your daughter,” Chief Magistrate Hribal said.

“You cannot just leave a dog in a back shed and ignore it.”

Both Tracey and Casey Goldner have been banned from owning animals until further notice.

Chief Magistrate Hribal gave Goldner seven days in which to rehome another dog still in her care, a four-year-old American Staffordshire Terrier cross named Rebel. She further indicated that the dog could be surrendered into RSPCA South Australia’s care if the organisation did not agree with the defendant’s choice of a new owner for Rebel.

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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