Brothers starved horses to the point of death

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Media Release - 17 July 2014

BROTHERS STARVED HORSES TO THE POINT OF DEATH

Two brothers starved and neglected a herd of horses in Canterbury to the point where six of them had to be destroyed to end their suffering.

Douglas John Williamson and his brother John Blackwood Williamson were convicted today in the Christchurch District Court on charges of wilfully ill-treating six horses, ill-treating another horse, and failing to ensure for the physical health and behavioural needs of five horses.

Both brothers were sentenced to 16 months imprisonment, disqualified from owning animals for five years, and ordered to pay reparations of $7000.

On 29 March 2010 a team of five SPCA Inspectors, an SPCA Auckland horse welfare representative, and a veterinarian went to the Defendants’ Halswell property on the outskirts of Christchurch.

They found 22 horses, of which 10 had body condition scores of 0 out of 5 (1 being poor, 5 being very fat), seven scored 1 to 2 out of 5, and the remaining five were in good condition with scores of 2 to 3 out of 5.

A black/brown stallion called ‘Danny B’ was discovered confined in a small, dark stable approximately 3m wide and 5m long. The stable had one door and no ventilation, and contained very little water and no feed.

Danny B was emaciated, with a body condition score of 0 out of 5. He was found standing in a stall full of urine and faeces where he ‘weaved’ almost constantly, a stereotypical behaviour often associated with the stress of long-term confinement. All his limbs were swollen and there was skin scalding on the heel bulbs of his hind limbs and patchy hair loss over his body.

A bay standard bred colt ‘PM1’, was down and unable to stand despite repeated attempts. He was in emaciated body condition, scoring 0 out of 5. Despite being two and a half years old, he was the approximate size a small yearling. The most common reason for failing to achieve average growth is inadequate nutrition. Because of his seriously poor condition, he was immediately euthanised to end his suffering.

The remaining 21 horses were removed from the property, however, five of the horses with body condition scores of 0 out of 5 were subsequently euthanised to relieve their suffering.

Despite the poor condition of the remaining 16 horses it was expected that with adequate nutrition and health care they were likely to make a full recovery. They were all drenched and put on a feeding plan.

A further 12 horses originally from the Halswell property were subsequently seized from a property in Kirwee, 37km west of Christchurch. All were in poor condition and the pasture was of very poor quality.

Blood and faecal testing of Danny B revealed no parasites and no evidence of chronic disease, meaning the only cause of his poor body condition was inadequate nutrition. Post mortem examination and faecal testing of four horses revealed such serious parasitic worm burdens that their abdominal wall were too damaged to allow adequate absorption of nutrition.

The veterinarian concluded that the poor body condition of the herd of horses was most likely due to parasitic infestation, exacerbated by an inadequate food supply in some cases.

“This is one of the worst cases of chronic neglect we have witnessed and we are pleased with the sentences handed down by the Court today,” says Ric Odom, CEO of the Royal New Zealand SPCA.

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“Despite numerous complaints dating back to 2008, site visits from SPCA Inspectors and veterinarians, and the issuing of multiple compliance notices, the Defendants in this case have consistently failed to provide adequate care for their horses.”

For more information please contact: Ric Odom, Chief Executive Officer, Royal New Zealand SPCA, DDI: +64 9 825 1801, Mobile: +64 27 481 1300, Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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Meet Elsie and Becky

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elsiebeckyWe received this fantastic letter and photo from young Elise and her 15 year old Labrador Becky - her best friend.

Elise is thanking SPCA for helping animals and outlines her concerns for animal abuse.

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Man Who Nailed Possum to Tree to Serve Jail Time

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Media Release - 8 May 2014

MAN WHO NAILED POSSUM TO TREE TO SERVE JAIL TIME

In a case that RNZSPCA CEO Ric Odom described as “genuinely disturbing”, a Whangarei possum trapper who videoed himself torturing several possums to death was today sentenced to prison.

Joshua Godfrey Aidan Heka, 28, was convicted today in the Whangarei District Court on 10 counts of wilfully ill-treating an animal with the result that the animal died, plus two counts of possessing objectionable material. He was sentenced to 2 years and 4 months in prison.

On 1 January 2014, the Police were called to Heka’s address in Whangarei on an unrelated matter. While at the address, Police were advised of some disturbing videos on Heka’s iPod by another member of the household. The videos were taken between June 2013 and November 2013, and showed Heka mutilating and taunting a series of possums before decapitating them or bludgeoning them to death.

In one series of videos, Heka films a possum whose tail he has nailed to a tree. As he approaches the possum it desperately tries to climb the tree to escape and begins to scream. The next video shows the same possum with its left arm pinned to the tree by the nail, which Heka hammers further into the tree while the possum screams. The next video shows the same possum with its left shoulder and left leg stapled to the tree by u-shaped nails. The possum continues to scream as Heka asks, “What's wrong possum? Is it a bit sore?” and hammers the staples further in. Heka then hits the possum’s head several times with the hammer.

In another video, Heka hacks the limbs off a female possum and then mocks her as she tries but fails to flee. He then chops the possum’s head off and dangles it in front of the camera lens while saying, “What up girl? Smile, smile, smile bitch! Smile!” In yet another video, Heka uses a hammer to break another possum’s legs then holds its face up to the camera and asks, “Does that f**king hurt? Does it? What? I can’t hear you.” The possum is clearly alive throughout. Heka then bashes the possum in the head with the hammer before stomping on its head aggressively several times.

“Heka’s crimes are genuinely disturbing and some of the worst offending we’ve seen,” says Ric Odom, CEO of the Royal New Zealand SPCA. “Unfortunately, we see similar acts of ‘recreational cruelty’ all too often in New Zealand and appeal to the public to bring such acts to the attention of the Police or the SPCA.

“We agree with the Police that people should receive prison sentences for this kind of offending because of the well-documented links between animal and human abuse. Basically, people who abuse animals are also very likely to abuse people, so a custodial sentence is fully justified. We hope that such offenders also receive the professional help that they clearly need.

“This case also raises issues around the treatment in New Zealand of so-called pest animals, such as possums. Although possums do significant damage to our forests and it is legal to hunt, trap, and kill them, it is still an offence to ill-treat them. If you kill them, you must do so humanely and avoid inflicting unnecessary suffering on them. All animals are sentient living things that feel pain and distress – they are not simply objects that we can do with as we please.

“Despite our opposition to the ill-treatment of animals, the RNZSPCA acknowledges that the humane control of the possum population is a necessary activity designed to preserve our native forests and animals.”

LIST OF SHAME 2013

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A LOOK IN THE MIRROR: SPCA’S ANNUAL LIST OF SHAME
A boat outing on Tauranga Harbour included chasing and running down black swans. A pet sheep is taken from its tether, bashed and set alight. An eight week old puppy has its tail cut off with a pair of scissors. Pigeons and a chicken are found bound and stuffed in a chest of drawers in a disused shed. These are just a few of the grievously inhumane acts of animal abuse and neglect that make up the 2013 SPCA List of Shame.


“These cases and worse are unfortunately all too familiar to SPCA Inspectors at centres around New Zealand” says RNZSPCA Chief Executive Ric Odom. “Our Inspectors are then tasked with the heart breaking job of determining whether the animals in question are able to be rehabilitated, released or re-homed – or, as a last resort, have to be euthanased as a result of this abuse or neglect.”


In most instances, the cost of investigating and prosecuting these cases is met by the SPCA. Often, the costs can run into the tens of thousands of dollars. The government only picks up the bill if a case goes to jury trial.


Ric Odom points out that “The SPCA’s work is almost entirely funded by donations, sponsorships and legacies of generous New Zealanders and the SPCA is enormously grateful to those individuals, groups and organisations. Without their support, we simply could not do the work we do.”

icon List of Shame 2013

This week is SPCA Annual Appeal week. By supporting this appeal, you can help the SPCA continue its work of preventing cruelty towards and caring for the welfare of our animals.

Donations can be made to our street collectors, at any branch of ASB Bank or online at www.spcaannualappeal.org.nz.

Remember The Animals On Guy Fawkes

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Media Release - 1 November 2013

REMEMBER THE ANIMALS ON GUY FAWKES

The SPCA is urging everyone to remember the animals during Guy Fawkes activities this year. According to RNZSPCA CEO Ric Odom “The loud noises and bright flashes are unfamiliar to animals and many will become highly stressed by them”. “We would like to think that most pet owners are responsible and will keep their pets inside and safe at this time, but those without pets of their own – or who live close to where animals are being kept - also need to be aware of the stress their use of fireworks is likely to be causing in their neighbourhood.”

Here are 5 tips to help keep your pets safe and calm on Guy Fawkes Night:

1. Stay home with your pet – they will be less stressed with someone they trust close by.

2. Keep them indoors – where they won’t see the flashes and the bangs will be muffled. Close doors and windows and draw the curtains. Turn up the volume on your radio or TV to help drown out loud bangs.

3. Put a collar and registration tag on your dog – if your dog panics and bolts, it will help rescuers reunite you. Attach a disc with your contact phone number.

4. Take special care of elderly or nervous pets – consult your vet for the best advice on keeping them calm, including sedation if necessary.

5. Move horses and farm animals away from fireworks – and make sure all fences are secure. Stable horses where possible.

The SPCA does not support the private sale and use of fireworks and has long called for a ban on the sale of fireworks to the public.

For more information contact RNZSPCA CEO Ric Odom on (09) 827 6094 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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