Registered dog breeder convicted for the ill-treatment of nine dogs and puppies

Picture: Two-year-old Jet when taken into RSPCA SA care in August 2019.

A 58-year-old male dog breeder from SA’s Murraylands region was convicted in the Murray Bridge Magistrates Court yesterday for ill-treatment of nine dogs and puppies for which he had failed to provide adequate and appropriate amounts of food.

All the animals were found in emaciated condition and suffering multiple health issues. Two of the dogs were humanely euthanased due to their ongoing suffering and poor prognoses.

The defendant, who is a registered dog breeder, has been on the radar of RSPCA SA’s inspectorate since 2008, with inspectors trying to work with him to improve the care of his free-roaming Koolie-mix dogs. Over the years he has been issued with an Animal Welfare Notice (which he complied with) and Letters of Caution, and given verbal advice.

Responding to another report about dogs on the defendant’s property, an RSPCA SA inspector attended the property under warrant on 24 February 2023. Also in attendance were four staff from the Department of Environment and Water (DEW), a Mid-Murray council officer and two SA police officers.

The defendant was present and co-operated with a search of the property, which had numerous car wrecks and copious quantities of garbage across it. A total of 23 dogs and puppies were sighted free-roaming and when the defendant gave them some dry dogfood, the animals scrambled to devour it. The RSPCA inspector observed several dogs being prevented from accessing the food by stronger, dominant dogs.

Many of the dogs were emaciated and had significant skin issues that had caused fur loss. The defendant stated that he had been treating the dogs’ skin issues with anti-dandruff shampoo, Malabon wash and flea powder whilst bathing them in the section of the River Murray abutting the property.

The nine canines (five of them puppies aged between four-to-six months) that had the most serious health issues were seized by the RSPCA inspector. The animals were transported to RSPCA’s veterinary clinic at the Lonsdale shelter, where they were examined by RSPCA veterinarian Dr Brooke Hasler. Dr Hasler stated that “all of the puppies and dogs seen were in a terrible physical state and severely compromised”.

All of the dogs had body condition scores (BCS) of between 0.5-2 out of 9, indicating serious emaciation. Dr Hasler stated that three of the puppies were only a week from

death by starvation. The animals were also all heavily infested with fleas and afflicted with canine scabies, a type of mange that is treatable with over-the-counter products. After a month of treatment the dogs’ skins had improved and their fur was regrowing.

One of the nine dogs, a 12-year-old female named Lollie, was suffering a significant infection in her uterus. Due to her poor prognosis for surviving surgery, the veterinary team determined that euthanasia was the most humane option. A second dog, one-year-old Bino, was also euthanased after five weeks in RSPCA’s care due to untreatable behavioural problems that manifested in her walking in circles in a distressed state for hours, to the point where her paws bled. Attempts at rehabilitation, medication and a placement with a foster carer all failed to alleviate the dog’s suffering.

Two of the remaining seven dogs were adopted after being surrendered by the defendant, with the other five being the subject of a successful forfeiture application during the criminal proceedings. They have also now been adopted.

This matter was downgraded from more serious charges as the defendant explained through his legal counsel that he was unable to adequately feed the animals due to unprecedented floods that had inundated the only road into the property. The area was subject to evacuation in late December 2022. Local council representatives confirmed the area was flooded and that the road was not flooded by 17 February 2023 and reopened after repairs on 23 February, with the defendant moving back in to the property a few days prior.

The defendant stated that he had walked food in via the rear of the property but that the food was left for the 23 dogs at the property to eat together which resulted in the weakest dogs being unable to gain sufficient nourishment. It is the RSPCA’s position that more needed to have been done given the appalling state of the animals when they were seen on 24 February 2023.

In the Murray Bridge Magistrates Court yesterday, Magistrate Kym Millard convicted the accused and sentenced him to a 12-month good behaviour bond. In deciding to impose a conviction for the offending His Honour explained the importance of “public deterrence to ensure that the vast number of animals held by members of the public, particularly dogs, have their custodians treat them with appropriate care and attention”.

Additional orders were made to limit the number of dogs to seven as well as to ensure that they are all desexed and subject to RSPCA inspections in the future. The additional orders will prevent the defendant from continuing to breed dogs which the RSPCA hopes will prevent further concerns.

RSPCA SA has advocated for many years for the state’s dog breeding laws to be tightened to prevent poor operators and highlighted the failure of current laws to protect animals in its submission to the ongoing review of the Animal Welfare Act. The Dog and Cat Management Board introduced new dog and cat breeding requirements on 1 July 2023.

There are currently 5328 registered dog and cat breeders in SA.

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