Cruel owners neglect pets' basic needs

Tauranga has seen its fair share of higher-end animal cruelty cases over the past two years, but it's the day-to-day routine cases causing the SPCA concern, a local inspector says.

Most cases the Tauranga SPCA deals with are pet owners failing to provide the basics of life for animals - food, water and shelter, Tauranga SPCA inspector Jason Blair said.

It received 366 animal welfare complaints last year, two of which resulted in prosecutions.

While there were occasional cases of intentional cruelty to animals, failing to provide proper medical care has also been a cause for concern.

One cat owner was taken to court recently after the cat was found with broken bones. Mr Blair said the owner acknowledged she knew it had been attacked by a dog up to two months prior.

"The left leg had become totally infected - it was just a swollen, oozing mess."

People's acceptance of an animal's suffering was concerning, Mr Blair said.

"She [the cat's owner] was quite surprised that I'd be taking action against that."

The cat was later put down because of its injuries and the owner was successfully prosecuted, he said.

Another case included an emaciated horse in Katikati.

"It was the skinniest animal I'd seen and the skinniest that a veterinary equine specialist said he'd ever seen as well. It was only just able to be cleared 'fit for transport'.

"If you picture every ribcage and every notch of its spine showing ... it had no reserves left basically."

The horse died a week later because of its condition and the owner was fined.

A more recent case involved an emaciated dog "who by the owner's admission had never been let off its chain", Mr Blair said.

"One of the comments that he [the owner] made to me in a recorded interview was that 'we're just really lazy'.

"He was working fulltime - it wasn't a financial situation - it was just left in the corner of the property and almost forgotten about."

Nationally, SPCA inspectors received 13,089 animal welfare complaints nationally last year, 37 of which resulted in prosecution.

Recent national cases of animal cruelty and neglect include:

A 13-year-old Whangarei Boys' High School student who ripped the head off a duckling last month then threw rocks at the duck's mother until it died.

A West Coast farmer who was sentenced last week after 60 cattle were found dead and dying. None could be saved.

And a Waikato hunter who filmed two young pig dogs attacking and chewing on a live pig, which was captive in an overgrown backyard pen in Waikato earlier this year.

The SPCA can only act on cases following tip-offs from the public, national chief executive Robyn Kippenberger said.

The frequency of complaints varied depending on people's vigilance, she said.

"Basically, we don't go out and trawl the streets to find animal abuse cases. Generally it's somebody who saw something on a farm, or it's somebody who's noticed something from the road, or it's someone who's picked up an animal.

"It does depend very much on what the public are giving us."

SPCA was successful in nearly all the prosecutions it took, Ms Kippenberger said.

However, court cases were resource heavy - big cases could take up to six years to get a successful conviction.

A study commissioned by the SPCA in partnership with Women's Refuge showed that one in three women delayed leaving violent relationships because they feared their pets and other animals would be killed or tortured. Of those, one quarter said their children had witnessed violence against animals.

Research also shows a link between cruelty to animals and violence against humans in later life.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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