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SPCA's annual List of Shame cites worst cruelty cases

Monday, 17 October, 2011

"The time will come when men such as I will look upon the murder of animals as they now look upon the murder of men."

—Leonardo Da Vinci, Italian Painter, Sculptor, Architect, Musician, Engineer and Scientist

The SPCA annual List of Shame highlights the plight of animals throughout New Zealand and the abuse that occurs all-too often to creatures unable to speak for or defend themselves. This year’s list features some of the worst cases of abhorrent neglect and mistreatment of animals. The established link between the abuse of animals and violence to humans makes the following incidents even more poignant and relevant.

“This year’s List once again highlights the inhumanity meted out on the innocent and defenceless. Despite the Animal Welfare Act being extremely clear about the duty of care of owning animals, this year, we have cases of extreme neglect and failure to provide veterinary treatment," says Robyn Kippenberger, National Chief Executive of SPCA New Zealand. "And once again there are cases of violence to animals being used to exert power and control over the families that love them. Most disturbingly there are also incidents of young men wantonly killing and injuring animals without apparent reason."

July 2011 saw the prosecution of a man who had beaten a 6-month old puppy to death with a golf club. This was a prolonged and particularly brutal act of cruelty which resulted in the Te Kuiti man being sentenced to 18 months jail for ill-treatment of an animal and was banned for life from owning another dog.

A teenager in Kaikoura bludgeoned to death 25 seals, including newborn pups, with a metal pipe as he believed they were pests. Others were found to be still alive having suffered horrific injuries. He was convicted of wilfully ill-treating protected animals and received a two-year jail sentence. An alleged co-offender is currently before the Court. This is the harshest penalty ever handed down in NZ for an animal cruelty offence.

In the Waikato, a 12 week old kitten was beaten and burned to death in Te Awamutu in front of the owner’s daughter and 5 year-old granddaughter. The offender has been sentenced to 18 months jail and banned from owning an animal for ten years.

The passing of the Amendment to the 1999 Animal Welfare Act in July 2010 by unanimous parliamentary vote, increased sentencing from 3 up to 5 years custodial term for an act of wilful cruelty that resulted in death with suffering or permanent disability of an animal. The maximum penalty achieved for animal cruelty under the original Act was a 12 month custodial sentence delivered in 2009 to Jeffrey Hurring for the killing of the Jack Russell dog, Diesel. The sentence was later appealed and reduced to 10 months.

Robyn Kippenberger says, "The link between animal abuse and human violence is well researched and undeniable. The recent increased sentences send a clear message that violence, whether to animals or humans, is unacceptable and society will not tolerate either. We hope that the higher penalties will act as a deterrent to potential offenders and give animal abuse increased significance for those who may be able to report such acts to ourselves or the police.

"Our work is almost entirely funded by donations, sponsorships and legacies provided by generous New Zealanders and not by Government. Please help us to continue to make New Zealand a safer place for animals and humans", Robyn Kippenberger adds.

"The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated."

—Mahatma Gandhi, Indian Statesman and Philosopher