Couple banned from caring for animals appeal conviction

Dog breeders Daryl and David Balfour leave the Dannevirke District Court after one of their earlier court appearances. Photo / File
Dog breeders Daryl and David Balfour leave the Dannevirke District Court after one of their earlier court appearances. Photo / File

A former Kennel Club judge and his wife, who were banned from caring for animals for 20 years, raised concerns over visual evidence when they appealed against their conviction today.

David and Daryl Balfour were convicted in December 2011 on three animal cruelty charges after the SPCA found 87 dogs and 161 cats in cramped conditions with insufficient shelter, water, light and ventilation on a property near Dannevirke in 2007.

At the Court of Appeal in Wellington today, the couple's lawyer, Eric Forster, told Justices Douglas White, Lowell Goddard and Simon France the fine was ``unduly harsh''.

Mr Forster also expressed concern that TVNZ footage of the raid on the Dannevirke property was excluded from evidence without being viewed in full by Judge Alastair Garland.

While acknowledging the ruling worked partially in the defence's favour, Mr Forster said Judge Garland made the ruling based on viewing ``the greatest hits''.

Mr Forster also raised photos of the property produced as evidence in the District Court trial before Judge Grant Fraser.

The photos, taken by SPCA senior operations inspector Jim Boyd over three days, did not have dates or times attached to them.

That information had since been made available and should be compared with the film footage, Mr Forster argued.

The times the photos were taken was important because images from the third day of the operation could show evidence that had been moved ``innocently'' over the previous days.

Mr Forster also argued that some of the diseases some of the cats suffered, such as ringworm, were not significant and there was ``no suffering in the dog population''.

The couple kept the animals as part of a breeding operation.

Half of the animals were put down and about 50 cats were treated by a veterinary surgeon. Some of the cats took three years to recover fully.

The couple were sentenced to a fine of almost $28,000 to be paid to the SPCA and disqualified from owning or caring for animals for 20 years.

Crown lawyer Stephanie Edwards said today the timing of many of the photos taken after the first day was not significant because they were of outbuildings after the animals had been seized.

She defended the length of the animal ban.

"The message must be made clear to breeders that the failure to meet acceptable standards will have significant consequences for their livelihood.''

The Crown had sought a lifetime ban, but the legislation was not clear as to whether that was lawful, she said.

The fines imposed on the Balfours were at the "conservative'' end of the available range, she said.

The justices reserved their decision.

- APNZ

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