Lack of money no excuse for neglecting dog with broken leg
Thursday, 17 March, 2016
An Opotiki man failed to seek treatment for his dog’s broken leg because he couldn’t afford it, which led to the dog having to be euthanased.
Anaru Tawhai, 25, was convicted today in Opotiki District Court for failing to ensure an ill or injured animal received treatment to alleviate any unreasonable or unnecessary pain or distress. He was disqualified from owning dogs for 12 months and ordered to pay a $1,000 fine, $337.02 veterinary costs, and $150 towards legal costs.
The case began on 9 February 2015 when the SPCA received a complaint about an injured dog at the defendant’s property in Opotiki. The next day an SPCA Inspector visited and found a tan and white, young adult dog on the property. The dog, named ‘Boy’, was unable to bear weight normally on its left hind leg, which showed pronounced muscle wastage that indicated the injury was not fresh.
The defendant said the dog had run off a few weeks earlier and come back with the injury. He had not sought veterinary treatment because he was on a benefit. The Inspector arranged to cover the cost of a veterinary consultation.
The veterinarian suspected a fracture in the distal femur consistent with heavy trauma to that area. Treatment options and likely prognosis were discussed, and it was agreed that, due to the chronic nature of the injury and Tawhai’s financial position, that the best option was euthanasia.
It was agreed that the defendant would take the dog home and have a talk with his family, and return to the clinic the next day, but he didn’t. When this was followed up he told the inspector that he taken the dog to a relative’s farm to be shot as it would save money.
On 20 February, the inspector returned to the defendant’s property and discovered that the dog was there. The inspector seized the dog for veterinary treatment and x-rays, which revealed a healed fracture of the femur. The degree of healing indicated the injury was more than four weeks old, and it had healed in a non-anatomical fashion resulting in significant shortening of the length of femur.
The Veterinarian reported that when the fracture occurred the dog would have been in acute pain and the lack of appropriate treatment had led to the fracture healing in a way that caused anatomical non-function of the leg. This had resulted in the patella running over the poorly aligned bone, causing crepitus and reduction in stifle joint mobility.
The Veterinarian concluded that the abnormal forces applied to the stifle by the collapsed distal femur, given more time, would result in degenerative joint disease, possible ligament rupture, chronic pain, and disability. Consequently the dog was euthanased.
“Pet ownership is not a cheap undertaking but even if you’re cash-strapped the health of your pet is your responsibility,” says Ric Odom, CEO of SPCA New Zealand.
“Simply standing by while your animal suffers is not an option. Crying poor and leaving it at that is not an option. And once you’ve come to our attention and we’ve recommended a course of action, doing nothing is most definitely not an option.
“If your animal is sick or injured, take it to the vet. If you can’t afford the whole treatment right away, you can discuss paying it off over several weeks if that helps. But if you fail to seek proper treatment, it can end up costing you a lot more in fines and court costs.”